A $30 million water reservoir project that would drought-proof the Charters Towers community and create the potential for enhanced agricultural activity in the district has been in the pipeline for some time and only requires government funding and approval to be greenlighted.
Speaking to the North Queensland Register during the Grow Queensland forum held in the city on June 16, Charters Towers Regional Council (CTRC) mayor Liz Schmidt said the Big Rocks Weir project would improve community and agricultural confidence immeasurably for a price that in the grand scheme of things is low.
“The current council is trying to build momentum for this proposal that has been developed by previous CTRC groups with the hope of illustrating to all levels of government that just because the funding required for Big Rocks is relatively low in comparison to other projects of its type, it doesn’t mean its not a credible plan,” Cr Schmidt said.
“The towns water supply is currently extracted from the Charters Towers Weir, situated on the Burdekin River which has limited storage capacity and relies heavily on regular flows within the Burdekin River in order to maintain a reliable supply to the community,” she said.
“Once water stops flowing into the current weir, the supply is cut off for agricultural operations and saved strictly for town use.
“This presents a key limitation for existing agriculture and in attracting new industries to the region and a major inhibitor to ensuring the long-term economic development to the region.”
In order to address the long-term water needs of Charters Towers, the CTRC has proposed to augment the storage capacity of the existing Charters Towers Weir with the construction of an additional weir at “Big Rocks”, approximately 23km upstream where water is entirely ponded within the river banks.
The Big Rocks Weir will have a 10,000ML capacity which would allow for more than twice the existing storage of the current weir’s capacity enabling a sufficiently reliable water supply.
She said she has been floating the projects cost at $30 million when communicating with government, yet a recent grant application has been refused.
“I don’t think any level of government appreciates how simple, cost effective and important it is to get a secure water supply in place.”
If given the go-ahead for construction, properties situated in close proximity to the Big Rocks Weir storage would potentially be able to extract additional supplies from the river for the purposes of irrigation.
“We have a lot of landholders in area interested in developing huge swathes of agricultural land on the Burdekin, they just need the confidence to know that they’ll have a secure constant supply of water and permission from government to undertake operations.
“I hope to see the weir constructed before the end of the current council term.”
Cr Schmidt said CTRC’s plan if the Big Rocks Weir project proposal goes ahead is for the existing Charters Towers Weir to continue to function as the primary water supply and delivery source for the city.
City demands would be extracted exclusively from the existing Charters Towers Weir while flows in the Burdekin River occurred.
Once flows in the river slows, and the storage within the existing weir started to get depleted, water would be released downstream from Big Rocks to the existing weir storage pool so as to extend the supply time available whilst there are limited natural river flows.
Access to the site is proposed via the Gregory Developmental Road and an existing track to the south of the Burdekin River. The existing access track will be required to be upgraded nearer to the weir site due to a crossing at Lolworth Creek and rocky outcrops and high flow channels to the south of the main weir site.
The current concept is based on construction of the weir using conventional mass concrete. Potential cost savings may be achievable with the use of roller compacted concrete which will be investigated during subsequent project phases.
Based on currently available survey, two minor saddle dams are required to contain storage and are likely to be in the order of up to 3.7 m and 1.5 m height respectively. The southern (right bank) saddle dam could be configured to facilitate vehicle access to the weir during low/no river flow conditions.
Once funding has been approved for the project construction is expected to be completed in approximately three years.