Bootawa Dam

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Every day we use water; it is an essential part of our lives. it’s also a resource most of the population take for granted.

Water quality varies in many regions due to different factors and because of its physical, chemical and biological characteristics. Standards keep improving when assessing quality – particularly for human consumption and the management of the health of our ecosystems.

Water in its raw form has many contaminants, including microorganisms like viruses and bacteria, non organic contaminants  such as salts, metals, pesticides, herbicides, by-products from industrial processes, petroleum and radioactive products.

Water quality depends on the local geology and ecosystem, as well as human uses such as sewage dispersion, industrial pollution and overuse. The Great Lakes and Manning Valley have not been spared these issues.

A ten year plan By MidCoast Water has come to fruition for all water users in our region, with the opening of a new $82 million water treatment plant at Bootawa Dam overcoming the former problems.

The dam is the hub of our water supply, with water pumped from the Manning River, processed and distributed across the region, serving 90 per cent of its customers in Taree, Wingham, Forster, Tuncurry, Pacific Palms, Nabiac, Dyers Crossing, Harrington, Coopernook, Hallidays Point and Lansdowne.

Bootawa Dam was built in the late 1960s and replaced the former storage facilities at Dingo Creek and Abbotts Falls. With a capacity of 2,275 million litres, it covers an area of 26 hectares and currently supplies 11 billion litres a year to its customers.

The task of supplying water to our region has had many innovations, with several major upgrades occurring in the 1970s.

MidCoast Water is a County Council that was established in 1997, after a State Government proclamation amalgamating the region’s water and sewerage facilities.

The formation of the new County Council led to many challenges, with the main priority being to overcome a water supply that was the largest unfiltered regional water supply in Australia.

The Council, under the leadership of General Manager Neil Hanington, has strategically introduced constant improvements in providing high quality, safe, drinking water to meet community expectations.

Its effort to deliver constant upgrades during its brief history have been rewarded, and it is  now recognised as a leader in New South Wales.

MidCoast Water’s Sustainable Water Cycle Management Strategy is acknowledged across the country as demonstrating leadership, with its broad approach to improving water quality and quantity.

With an area covering 7,000 square kilometres, MidCoast Water has the role of maintaining and operating 4 water treatment plants, 40 reservoirs, 13 sewerage plants, 20 thousand kilometres of pipeline and more than 200 pumping stations.

The new water treatment plant is replacing the current system and has been part of a long term plan beginning eleven years ago.

The new plant is the pinnacle in water processing, designed to further improve water quality and reduce the risk of algae problems.

The new plant is a state of the art system and has been designed to ensure all rainwater is captured on the site and is reused, with the treated effluent from the on site sewerage system recycled as underground irrigation.

With plenty of fine tuning and hurdling red tape, the new treatment plant project began in 2007. It was a major work for the region, involving earthworks, reservoirs, tanks, buildings for the treatment unit, the amenities / control area, chemical dosing equipment and the main pumping stations and roads.

The new plant has a capacity of 60 million litres per day, with the provision to increase to 75 million litres daily. During its construction, more than 200 personnel were employed, with the emphasis on using local suppliers and tradesmen.

The major long-term problems for customers of the Manning Water Supply Scheme have been the quality of water, which was being affected by elevated iron and manganese levels, a presence of algae and dirty water after wet weather in the catchment areas.

Neil Hanington says the new plant will eliminate these issues and provide many other benefits.

“For a long time we (MidCoast Water) have always had problems with taste, smell and water quality due to the nutrients in the Manning River.

“Now we’ll be able to remove all those problems from the water.

“Also, another benefit is when water quality is not so good in the river, we can now take the water and clean it.

“In the past we have had monitor the water closely; we still do, but the condition of water will not be as critical.”

The plant is fully automatic and monitored by advanced technology.

Its operation has several complex sectors and is designed with a membrane filtration system, including coagulant dosing and flocculation – a process separating larger particles from the water before it goes to filtration.

Once this process has been executed, water passes through membrane filters, where micro-organisms are removed. The membranes are so fine they can remove particles smaller than 1 micron or 1/1000 of a millimetre.

From the membrane system, the water undergoes ozonation and passes through a carbon filter for taste and odour improvement.

Flouride is added, for dental health, and the water is prepared for the lengthy journey around the system by adding chlorine, for final disinfection.

The final process of disinfecting is added because the water can take several days to travel from the processing plant to its customers, which protects it from contamination in the pipelines.

“MidCoast Water is proud of the Bootawa Water Treatment Plant project, both in the way it has been managed by MidCoast Water employees and in the service it will provide to our community for generations to come,” said Neil Hanington.

“It is a world class facility and is important to our other works programs just completed.”

MidCoast Water has built five new reservoirs across the Manning and Great Lakes to enable the provision of water supplies in growth areas in the past few years.

The reservoirs were designed to provide for future expansions in coastal areas and are located at North Coopernook, Tallwoods, North Tuncurry, Red Head and Tea Gardens.

In addition to the expansion, MidCoast Water recognises water is a precious resource and has introduced a high profile education program to save on water usage.

The community is recognised by the Board of Management and is strongly supported through community sponsorship.

Each year MidCoast Water distributes funds to community groups who demonstrate community-based projects will be of a general public benefit and in keeping with the company’s core values.

If you would like to head to Bootawa Dam, it is a leisurely and picturesque drive from Taree.

MidCoast Water has provided the community with the opportunity to tour the site, with several open days planned for the New Year.

If you want to book a tour, you are invited to call Marcelle Boyling on 6592 4803.

Story by Peter Lyne

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