Water and sewer cost set to soar

AGING pipes, water standing for too long in reservoirs and a lack of pressure for fighting fires - they're just a few of the problems plaguing the region's water supply and sewer network.

Southern Downs Regional Council documents detail a litany of issues with major infrastructure and the mounting cost of maintenance.

The revelations come as council prepares to spend up to $300,000 on sewer testing in Warwick and Stanthorpe to find the full extent of leaks.

Reports compiled by council officers state that the overall condition of sewer mains across the Warwick network is "currently unknown", prompting the need for CCTV inspections.

In Stanthorpe, council is routinely in breach of environmental laws due to sewage discharge to Quart Pot Creek during storms, and the town's sewer network has a high level of "inflow and infiltration".

But of greater concern for Stanthorpe residents is a reference to "insufficient pressure for fire flows" in some zones and a lack of water storage.

A new dam for the town has previously been costed at between $17 million and $77 million but the project remains parked while awaiting state and federal approval.

In Warwick the pipeline from council-owned Connolly Dam to the water treatment plant at Rosenthal Heights has a "high likelihood" of failure and Warwick's network of reservoirs in described as "not working well", with chlorine being depleted due to lengthy storage times.

With water pipes up to 90 years old in parts of the Rose City, council has called tenders for a "network hydraulic model" to gain an understanding of how its water system operates under "various demand and flow scenarios".

At Killarney, some of the water mains are up to 60 years old and likewise need replacing and a new off-stream storage built largely to supply the now-closed abattoir remains un-used, while the common effluent disposal scheme has a "high level" of infiltration.

At Allora water "hardness" continues as a source of irritation for residents, with plans to sewer the Best Little Town on the Downs still on hold.

Water meters across the region will also increasingly become a headache, with just under 4000 rated as in "average" condition, with "significant renewal required", while just over 91,000 metres of sewer line in the region is rated as needing "significant" maintenance or renewal.

Sewer costs alone over the next 20 years are predicted to tip the scales at $24 million or more, while maintenance of water assets is expected to increase steadily from 2013 and currently costs ratepayers more than $800,000 a year.

Mayor Ron Bellingham said figures in the report were a maximum estimate only and actual water and sewer costs over the next two decades could be lower than forecast.

"There is nothing wrong with old infrastructure unless it causes problems," he said.

"But upgrades do not get cheaper as time goes on and the cost of materials is continually increasing."

A bit on the nose?

$300,000 is in the council budget for closed circuit television camera (CCTV) inspections of the sewer networks in Warwick and Stanthorpe, with the full extent of sewer leaks "currently unknown".

Some water main and pipes nearly a century old.

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