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    Media Statements

    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    Premier and Minister for Trade
    The Honourable Peter Beattie


    Premier and Minister for Trade
    The Honourable Peter Beattie

    Sunday, January 28, 2007


    Purified recycled water will be a permanent and ongoing part of South-East Queensland’s drinking supplies after the Queensland Government today announced there would be no vote on the issue.

    Premier Peter Beattie and Deputy Premier Anna Bligh said deterioration in the south-east’s water outlook and compelling advice from the Queensland Water Commission had convinced them to cancel the March 17 plebiscite.

    Mr Beattie apologised to the people of South-East Queensland for breaking an undertaking he gave them in what were less serious circumstances.

    “I understand that some people have strong views on this issue and I wanted to give people a vote when our planning and forecasting indicated that purified recycled water was an option,” Mr Beattie said.

    “The data the Deputy Premier has presented to me upon my return indicates that it appears inevitable that we will have to rely on purified recycled water – it is no longer an option, we have no choice.

    “Our water situation has worsened which has required me to reconsider what is in the best interests of our region and its residents.

    “There is strong public support, from the Prime Minister down, for supplementing our water supplies with safe and clean purified recycled water.

    “There have also been strong views expressed within the community since I announced the plebiscite that we shouldn’t waste time or money with a vote, but just get on and do it.

    “I know there will be anger in some parts of the community about the decision to cancel the March 17 vote, but the evidence presented to the Deputy Premier and I has been compelling.

    • inflows into the Wivenhoe-Somerset Dam system are currently 20 percent lower than the worst year on record

    • advice from the Queensland Water Commission that:

    o combined dam levels (in the Wivenhoe-Somerset system) of at least 40% should trigger the emergency use of purified recycled water (currently the combined dam levels are at 22.78% and have not been at 40% since mid 2005)

    o with continued below average rainfall patterns, it could take many years – 5-10 – for the Wivenhoe system to climb back to 40 percent even with purified recycled water, desalination and the other measures being taken; and

    • strong support within the community for the addition of purified recycled water to our water supply system with a range of polling showing a clear majority of support at up to almost 80%

    Mr Beattie said the effects of climate change on our region meant we could no longer rely on past rainfall patterns to help us plan for the future.

    “The inflows into our dams between April 2006 and December 2006 are almost 20 percent lower, at 38,923ML, than the same period for the worst year on record (48,430ML between April and December 2004),” he said.

    “Very worryingly, December, which has in past years produced good rainfall and dam inflows, saw all but a trickle enter our major dam system over the Christmas holidays.

    “Inflows for the month of December were 80 percent less than those recorded for the same month in our worst ever year in 2004.

    “While the next two months – February and March – are generally high rainfall months, based on the dam inflow pattern to date, the 2006-07 water year could be our driest on record.

    “We can’t plan based on hope.

    “We need purified recycled water on top of everything else we’re doing - desalination, dams, pipelines, rainwater tanks and recycling for industry - to ensure we have the water we need now and for the future.”

    Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure Anna Bligh said against this backdrop of climate variability the Queensland Water Commission formally recommended to Government that the emergency use of purified recycled water should be triggered when dam levels were approximately 40 percent – the point at which water restrictions kick in.

    “We are well below that level now. As at Thursday January 25, the combined Wivenhoe-Somerset system was 22.78%,” Ms Bligh said.

    “The last time the combined dam system was at 40 percent was in mid 2005.

    “It would take between 100-200mm in a single rain event to boost the Wivenhoe Dam level back up to 40 percent.

    “My advice indicates if we continue to experience below average rainfalls it could take several years (anywhere from five to ten years) for our major dam system to climb back up past 40 percent even with purified recycled water, desalination and the other measures we’re taking to supplement our water supplies.

    “Given the current uncertainty about the likely impact of climate change on rainfall patterns in SEQ over coming years, it is only prudent to assume at this stage that lower than usual rainfalls could eventuate.

    “It’s difficult to ask the public to make a decision about the long-term when the advice is telling us we need PRW now and would probably need it for some time into the future to reduce our region’s water supply risk.

    “To end any uncertainty about when we use purified recycled water, it must simply be a part of our ongoing water supply strategy.”

    Ms Bligh said purified recycled water will be available when the new pipeline currently under construction connects to the Wivenhoe Dam in late 2008.

    “Up to 115ML per day of purified recycled water is expected to be available, after the needs of power stations and major industry are met, to supplement our drinking supplies,” she said.

    Mr Beattie said the Government would undertake a major information campaign over the next two years to educate the public about purified recycled water.

    “Our recycling scheme is among the largest in the world and is being designed to meet or exceed world’s best practice in relation to treatment processes and water quality standards.”

    Media contact: John Algate 0439 727 107
    28 January 2007.