Home > Economics - General, Environment > One less stupid idea to worry about

One less stupid idea to worry about

April 29th, 2008

The Queensland government has abandoned the idea of piping water from the Burdekin to the Southeast corner. A $350 000 study by GHD concluded that the proposal would be ruinously (as in $14 billion) expensive. I could have told them that for free, just by looking at the studies on Colin’s canal. Still, the Beatty government originally announced plans to spend $3 million on a feasibility study, so the GHD study is a bargain. And the big news is that the proposal is dead, once and for all.

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  1. Socrates
    April 29th, 2008 at 09:36 | #1

    Gosh an engineering firm with relevant expertise can complete the study for a tenth of the price an accounting firm might have charged, what a surprise! Lets all hope the Brisbane – Melbourne inland railway receives a similar dose of reality.

  2. Tony G
    April 29th, 2008 at 09:38 | #2

    A better solution would be to Channel the water 400 kilometres into the Murray Darling Basin at Charville. That would feed all the way to Adelaide and replenish flows to the Murray and Darling rivers.

  3. April 29th, 2008 at 11:45 | #3

    Tony G: 400 kilometres? I would have thought at least 600.

    Furthermore, when this kind of idea was discussed previously, I think the conclusion was that of the water would evaporate or seep away well before it got anywhere useful.

  4. Tony G
    April 29th, 2008 at 12:43 | #4

    Whether it is 600 or 1000k, it is still only a fraction of the distance from Charleville to Adelaide. From Charleville to Adelaide it flows for free down the Darling.

    It would also be possible to get water to flow from KOOMBOOLOOMBA DAM with an elevation of 760m to Charleville with an elevation of 302m, a massive height difference of 458m, by gravity. If someone can give me the distance I will work out the grade.

    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_031083.shtml

    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_044021.shtml

    The volumes of rainfall measured at KOOMBOOLOOMBA DAM are in metres not millimetres, so small dams could feed large volumes. It is doubtful you would have to worry much about evaporation with those volumes of water.

    Australia needs another Snowy Mountain Scheme as well as the water

  5. Socrates
    April 29th, 2008 at 13:58 | #5

    There are many other problems besides distance for the Charleville idea. For starters, there is a mountain range in the way, that means expensive tunnelling, or expensive pumping or both. The Bradfield scheme was examined years ago and, while possible in engineergin terms, is not a good idea for environmental and economic reasons. People have to face the fact that the Muray Darling system needs to begin to “live within its means” and not think there is a “solution” by robbing another adjacent system.

  6. Smiley
    April 29th, 2008 at 16:38 | #6

    I have a feeling that this idea developed from desperation. Politicians and bureaucrats should have been planning for this years ago. The following quote from the linked article is spot on:

    Burdekin MP Rosemary Menkens said it had always been a better idea to encourage a population shift north, rather than pipe water south.

  7. April 29th, 2008 at 17:08 | #7

    Tony G,
    It is 1200k from Koombooloomba to Charleville by road – see here.
    Ayr (near Burdekin I understand) to Charleville is 1070k.

  8. Tony G
    April 30th, 2008 at 09:08 | #8

    Koombooloomba to Charleville scales out at about 900k as the crow fly s scaled from an old school atlas. Say a scheme of tunnels and channels come out at about 1000k in length.

    Big stormwater pipes run at a minimum fall of 1 in 300 to 350. They have to cope with big storms. The flow line from a dam would have a controlled flow and would be much larger, so it could theoretically flow on a much flatter grade.
    0.45k fall over 1000k would still flow, but at a slower rate.

    see pipe grade here;
    http://members.ozemail.com.au/~ksengs/swpipe.html

  9. wilful
    April 30th, 2008 at 15:57 | #9

    Geez guys, don’t you know how to use google earth? Kombooobaabaa to charleville is 949 km.

  10. wilful
    April 30th, 2008 at 16:00 | #10

    Ken Davidson is suggesting we should have a tunnel from tassie to melbourne, and that it could be done for $300M and be gravity fed.

    Unfortunately I think Ken Davidson knows even less than me about the engineering and economics of pumping water

  11. May 1st, 2008 at 09:45 | #11

    $300 million? The tunnel from the desal plant in Wonthaggi to Melbourne is budgeted for over that, if I recall correctly…

  12. O6
    May 1st, 2008 at 12:37 | #12

    Why are seriously absurd ideas being discussed seriously, when recycling would eliminate current problems at reasonable cost? It won’t provide for the much larger population that seems likely to be our future, but that’s a different story.
    No, I haven’t forgotten about the Toowoomba referendum (http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200607/s1700516.htm ), but with real political leadership recycling would be possible.

  13. Socrates
    May 1st, 2008 at 14:07 | #13

    To be fair to Davidson tunnel costs obviously vary with diameter and the complexity of the valves/connections but, even so, I haven’t heard of any major tunnel in recent times coming in at under $1 million/km in capital cost, not counting operating costs. So I find the $3oom figures for what would have to be a marine tunnel oddly low.

  14. Chris O’Neill
    May 2nd, 2008 at 01:20 | #14

    Davidson reminds us (indirectly) of one of the stupid ideas we not only still have to worry about but will most likely have to put up with, i.e. the pipeline from the Goulbourne river to Melbourne while Lake Alexandrina is in danger of becoming an acidic salt-pan.

  15. Tony G
    May 2nd, 2008 at 04:19 | #15

    Maybe the ‘Beatty Scheme’ was a “Stupid Idea� but parts of the Bradfield Scheme still have merit, especially if applied to the Murray Darling catchment.

    “THE BRADFIELD SCHEME

    Background

    1.1 The Scheme was first proposed by Dr John J.C. Bradfield, D.Sc., M.E., in 1929. It was the subject of numerous commissioned Committees of Inquiry by both the Queensland State government as well as the Federal government.

    1.2 Whilst the original proposals were widened to take in most of Australia, the heart of the scheme (The Bradfield Scheme) without embellishment was the:

    1. Dam the Tully River (near where the Koombooloomba Hydro Dam now stands);

    2. Diverting the Tully River (above this dam) into the Herbert River;

    3. Dam the Herbert River at the Kooragwyn Dam site (two miles upstream from junction with Cameron Creek);

    4. Diverting the Herbert River (above the Falls) into the Burdekin River;

    5. Dam the Burdekin and diverting it into the Flinders; and

    6. Diverting the Flinders by way of a small channel into the Thompson, from where it would fill up Lake Eyre, thus increasing the moisture content of Australia’s dry interior rain would thereby precipitate and the desert, it was hoped, would bloom.”

    The diverting of waters into the Flinders River to lake Eyre and the evaporation part of Bradfield’s scheme might not be logical based on today’s knowledge, but the catchments he targeted do have the highest rainfall in Australia. Diverting monsoonal rains into the water starved Murray & Darling Rivers from the Tully, Herbert, Burdekin or a combination of these rivers is not only feasible, but warranted. Especially so, considering Adelaide’s thirsty and growing 1.5 million population and the environmental damage caused by the low flow rates along the Murray & Darling rivers.

    http://www.johnston-independent.com/bradfield_scheme_c.html#THE%20REVISED%A0BRADFIELD%20SCHEME

    The distance from Koombooloomba Dam to the Upper Warrego (start of the Murray Darling Catchment) is 856k according to google earth (Thanks Wilful). There is nearly ½ a kilometre of fall over this distance; the topography would favour the construction of a gravity fed reticulated water system. There would be a few hundred kilometres of pumping, but the bulk of the cost of the pumping would be negated by the hydro power the system itself produced. Once the water reached the Upper Warrego it would flow the 3370 kilometres to Adelaide for free, irrigating all and sundry on the way.

    http://www.ga.gov.au/education/facts/images/relief.gif

    “When measured from its source in Queensland to its mouth on the coast south-east of Adelaide, the Murray-Darling river system is 3370 kilometres long, about half the length of the world’s longest river, the Nile”;
    http://www.ga.gov.au/education/facts/landforms/longrive.htm

    Comparing a system that connects North Queensland’s wasted monsoonal flows and the Murray-Darling river system, utilizing a minor 850 kilometre diversion which would primarily be gravity fed, to the pumping of water for 3000 kilometres across the sparsely populated and desolate Western Australia landscape as outlined in the Colin’s canal, would be IMHO “stupid�.

  16. Chris O’Neill
    May 2nd, 2008 at 12:55 | #16

    wilful:

    Ken Davidson is suggesting we should have a tunnel from tassie to melbourne, and that it could be done for $300M and be gravity fed.

    Unfortunately I think Ken Davidson knows even less than me about the engineering and economics of pumping water

    And it appears that the Victorian government knows even less about the engineering and economics of desalination. Its minister likes to point out that pumping water from Tasmania would use “an enormous amount of energy” but for some reason the much greater amount of energy needed to desalinate seawater is insignificant.

  17. Chris O’Neill
    May 3rd, 2008 at 03:15 | #17

    The distance from Koombooloomba Dam to the Upper Warrego (start of the Murray Darling Catchment) is 856k according to google earth (Thanks Wilful). There is nearly ½ a kilometre of fall over this distance; the topography would favour the construction of a gravity fed reticulated water system. There would be a few hundred kilometres of pumping, but the bulk of the cost of the pumping would be negated by the hydro power the system itself produced.

    The issue is whether the water in the Murray-Darling is worth more (for agricultural purposes) than the value of its energy at Koombooloomba dam. I’d guess that the value of agricultural water would be no more than the energy content of water with 200 metres of potential energy. (This is going by the energy cost of Melbourne desalination of 1930 metres equivalent and agricultural water being at least 10 times cheaper than this.) Koombooloomba dam is 760 metres above sea level with most of that available for hydro energy. So on the face of it, sending Koombooloomba water to the Murray-Darling is much less valuable than the energy it contains.

    I’d say that in general, the vast majority of the value of water involved in hydro-electric schemes is its energy content. The exception may be city water-supply.

  18. Tony G
    May 3rd, 2008 at 17:09 | #18

    “I’d guess that the value of agricultural water would be no more than the energy content of water with 200 metres of potential energy.”

    “The Murray-Darling Basin is also very important for rural communities and Australia’s economy. Three million Australians inside and outside the Murray-Darling Basin are directly dependent on its water. About 85 per cent of all irrigation in Australia takes place in the Murray-Darling Basin, which supports an agricultural industry worth more than $9 billion per annum.”

    http://www.environment.gov.au/water/mdb/index.html

    In Addition to the potential $9 billion per annum agricultural value, could “the issue” also be, whether Koombooloomba water can be supplied in Adelaide for around $1.16 a kilolitre (Its market value) or the at the price to desalinated water in Adelaide (Its other potential supply)?

    Water charges in the city vary. Adelaide is up to $1.16 per kilolitre, Sydney up to $1.87 per kilolitre.
    http://www.sawater.com.au/SAWater/Templates/Generic.aspx?NRMODE=Published&NRORIGINALURL=%2fSAWater%2fYourAccount%2fUnderstandingYourAccount%2fPricing%2bInformation%2ehtm&NRNODEGUID=%7b7201CB89-94C3-4DDA-AA25-DC65BBF890DA%7d&NRCACHEHINT=NoModifyGuest#residential
    http://www.sydneywater.com.au/Publications/FactSheets/UsageCharges.pdf#Page=1

    Desalination produces water for between $1 and $4 per kilolitre depending on the plant

    See Cost;
    http://www.awa.asn.au/Content/NavigationMenu2/AboutWaterandtheWaterIndustry/WaterFacts/FactSheets/Desalination/default.htm

  19. Chris O’Neill
    May 6th, 2008 at 17:31 | #19

    “In Addition to the potential $9 billion per annum agricultural value,”

    Koombooloomba is hardly going to double the amount of water in the Murray-Darling and irrigation does not make up the entire basis of agricultural industry in the Murray-Darling.

    “could “the issueâ€? also be, whether Koombooloomba water can be supplied in Adelaide for around $1.16 a kilolitre (Its market value) or the at the price to desalinated water in Adelaide (Its other potential supply)?”

    As I implied, supplying city water may make it worth doing these things if there is no alternative. But there is already a lot of water sold much more cheaply for irrigation that Adelaide could pay more for.

  20. Tony G
    May 7th, 2008 at 10:55 | #20

    “Koombooloomba is hardly going to double the amount of water in the Murray-Darling”

    I do not think you understand just how much f-in’ water is up there.

    In the Tully ALONE there is about 4 times the flow that there is at lock 1 on the Murray.

    Tully 4000+ Mega Litres/ Day;
    http://www.nrw.qld.gov.au/water/monitoring/current_data/site_details.php?site_id=113006A

    Lock 1 flow rate 1090 Mega Litres/ Day
    Hit 12 here;
    http://www.mdbc.gov.au/subs/rmw_backup/riverdata/imagemaps/euston_to_sea.htm

    As I said above in comment 15;

    “Diverting monsoonal rains into the water starved Murray & Darling Rivers from the Tully, Herbert, Burdekin or a combination of these rivers is not only feasible, but warranted. Especially so, considering Adelaide’s thirsty and growing 1.5 million population and the environmental damage caused by the low flow rates along the Murray & Darling rivers.”

    The risk would be flooding Murray Darling. Check out how much water is washing out to sea up there yourself. Follow the links to the individual rivers;
    http://www.nrw.qld.gov.au/water/monitoring/current_data/map_details.php?group=barron

    “the rainforests of the high country between Ingham and Innisfail regularly enjoy rainfalls in excess of 200 inches a year (over 5,000mm).

    The rainfall run-off from this tiny strip of coastline is greater than the entire discharge of the Murray-Darling system, which covers four States of Australia.

    Even if 1.5m mgl’s were removed from this area and redirected inland, some 8 million acre/feet would still be available annually from the Herbert, Tully and Russell Rivers for irrigation on this narrow coastal belt, which would he 8ft of irrigation water for every acre of land available for cultivation.”

    Taken from 4.1 here;
    http://www.johnston-independent.com/bradfield_scheme_c.html#THE%20REVISED%A0BRADFIELD%20SCHEME

    We need the North Queensland water in the Murray for Agriculture, Adelaide’s urban dwellers and environmental flows.

  21. Tony G
    May 7th, 2008 at 11:12 | #21

    Should be paragraph 4.3 from Johnston not 4.1

  22. Chris O’Neill
    May 7th, 2008 at 17:11 | #22

    Lock 1 flow rate 1090 Mega Litres/ Day

    Yes after all the irrigators have finished with it in a dry part of the year. You are so convincing.

    In the Tully ALONE

    Kombooloomba is only part of the Tully.

    The rainfall run-off from this tiny strip of coastline is greater than the entire discharge of the Murray-Darling system, which covers four States of Australia.

    Sure, the Murray-Darling irrigators make sure of that. And Kombooloomba is only a small fraction of the discharge from that tiny strip of coastline.

    As I said above in comment 15

    Proof by repetition doesn’t work for me.

    In any case, the quantity is a side-issue. The important point is the relative value of usage and that doesn’t change as the quantity increases. Hydro-electricity from 500 metres or so is worth more than irrigation. Of course, that’s still ignoring all the capital costs associated with a diversion scheme. The hydro-electric scheme is already in place.

  23. Trevor Brennan
    April 5th, 2009 at 21:16 | #23

    it seems a shame that the Queensland government has millions of dollars of tunneling equipment sitting under Brisbane that will become redundant when the current schemes are completed, why not transport them into the western side of the range and dig some serious tunneling incorporating hydroelectric scheme. In the current economic climate it would be cost effective for employment and a side effect would be to drought proof the interior so that future generations would not to be taxed by governments who exhibit tunnel vision about our great country

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