Urban Water Supply and Catchment Protection
A number of separate reports have recently appeared in the media relating to water quality. Firstly, Coffs Harbour and Grafton newspapers reported on announcements by their respective Councils that, for the first time since December 2019, Level 1 water restrictions will no longer apply.
The reason for all the excitement was that the source of the region’s water, the Nymboida River, is finally clean enough to use for filling their main storage, the Shannon Creek dam. So, despite higher-than-average rainfall, the entire region has been on water restrictions for 18 months because of muddy water.
Two days later “The Conversation” reported that three Victorian suburbs had been warned against drinking tap water because severe weather had led to an equipment failure, allowing potentially unsafe water to enter the drinking water system.
However, unlike the above reports, it stated the obvious, explaining that: “To maintain optimal water quality, we must protect the integrity of water catchments. For example, damaging logging operations along steep slopes in Melbourne’s biggest water catchment threatens to pollute the city’s drinking water because it increases the risk of erosion during storms.”
This obvious need for catchment care is clearly not high on the list of priorities of those authorities who have responsibilities to provide safe drinking water to Coffs – Clarence residents, as highlighted by another media report that same week. That story was about the protest action which saw logging operations blockaded in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest west of Coffs Harbour.
In that case, despite being the responsible agency for protecting waterways from pollution and having placed a stop work order on that particular logging operation six-months earlier, because of illegal activity, the Environmental Protection Agency has allowed logging to recommence.
Wild Cattle Creek lies in mountainous country and is the main tributary of the Little Nymboida River which provides most of the region’s drinking water. Everyone knows that soil disturbance in mountainous country leads to erosion and dirtier water, and should be avoided, but once again councils remain silent, and residents suffer the consequences.