Water policy after the flood

There’s already some finger-pointing about the management of Brisbane’s dams in the weeks leading up to the flood. I don’t want to deal with that while the emergency continues, but I will make a couple of suggestions regarding future policy in Brisbane and elsewhere

* The historical statistics on the frequency of severe rainfall events (both droughts and floods) have proved to be of little value. Everywhere in Australia, we need to work on the assumption that extreme events will be more common in the future than they were in the (pre-2000) past.[1]

* As regards Wivenhoe Dam, we need a much more cautious approach to flood mitigation, going into wet seasons with a substantially larger reserve capacity. This in turn will reduce Wivenhoe’s usefulness as a water supply source, and buffer against drought.

* One response that is immediately available to us is to turn on the water recycling plant, built at great expense during the drought and never used. Current policy is to turn it on when average dam levels are at 40 per cent. This trigger should be raised significantly. As a very rough guide, it appears that when our dams are at 100 per cent of normal we currently have enough storage for four years supply. If instead we cut the maximum to three years supply (75 per cent0, we could (roughly) cancel the impact on supply by turning on the recycling plant at 65 per cent (40+25)

On a personal note, I’ve had some reports from home and it appears that cleanup will go faster than expected and that our biggest loss (the car) is covered by insurance.

Many others are not so lucky. And, as was discussed in comments to the previous thread, floods in poor countries regularly cause many deaths (400 in Brazil and 40 in the Phillipines in the time I’ve been following our own flood) and wipe out the few possessions of very poor people. If you are giving to flood relief appeals for Queensland (as I hope you are), please think about also sparing a few dollars for emergency relief or long-term development aid for the truly poor.

Update It’s been argued pretty convincingly in comments here and elsewhere that the additional mitigation capacity in the estimates above would only have had a marginal influence on the current floods, given the volume of rain that fell. Still, I think the basic premise is right. We will need more mitigation capacity and that means less water at higher cost.

Another point I meant to make earlire is that more reliable forecasts of El Nino and La Nina events would be of great value in managing water supply in a highly variable environment.

fn1. I will have a lot more to say about human-caused climate change in the near future. But until I’ve had my say, I request everyone to avoid any discussion of the AGW topic in this thread – failure to heed this warning will lead to deletion and may result in a permanent ban. Feel free to continue discussion in the agnotology thread.

202 thoughts on “Water policy after the flood

  1. @Nick

    Consideration of Lockyer and Bremer flows is not “another set of goalposts”

    I was referring to your additional claim for the Bremer being in flood on the weekend when I had already shown that there was very strong evidence that it was not and that it would not have increased a backup from the Brisbane very much. Your additional observation was just another set of goalposts. Perhaps you’re not familiar with the term “moving the goalposts” which is what I perceived you were doing.

    You think they should have been ahead of the curve into strategy W2 or 3 at least 24-even 48hours earlier than early Monday 10th,but we really do not know when W2/3 was activated just because flows were not optimised in the way you wish they had been.

    Not optimized according to the targets in the manual, actually.

    Maybe they were already in W2 then,

    How could they possibly have been into W2 on Sunday when Savages didn’t get to 3,500 m3/s, the target specified by the manual for W2 when the natural flow is above that, until after 7 am Tuesday morning?

    Combined flows [Savages] were at around 1000 cusecs on mid 8/1,hitting 1700 by midnight 9/1 and 2850 cusecs late on the 10/1. Outflows at the wall were rising from 1340cusecs very early on the 9/1 to 1965cusecs by midnight,and by morning 10/1 were rising again to 2780 cusecs by late that day.

    Still a way below the W2 target, a long time after Sunday morning.

    (So you see there is always the discrepancy between dam measurements and Savages measurements,a function of different site hydrology.) On the 11th,the press releases also suggest some restraint in quickly raising releases further. I think they were working through W2,

    At or before the time of that press release, Tuesday morning, they were around the W2/W3 targets but they violated the W3 target by 9 am Tuesday morning. No more “working through W2”. It was game over for W2/W3 at that time.

    having decided at the time that they could handle what upstream data were telling them,and in the face of strongly conflicting projected rainfalls [courtesy of your linked Weatherzone thread].

    I think the press release reflects data from quite a few hours earlier. Projected rainfalls (if they ever mattered) were no longer relevant to that press release on Tuesday morning because it appears they had already violated W3 by around 9 am.

    Also, regarding rainfalls, the actual rainfalls to 9 am Sunday 9/1/11 according to the radar exceeded 250 mm around Crohamhurst which is in the upper Stanley valley. There was no need to use projected rainfalls to know very early on Sunday morning that they should switch to W2/W3. There was no need for hindsight, all they had to do was look at the BOM’s radar.

    The central problem as I see it is that the manual allows far too much latitude in requiring protection of the flood reserve. It gives targets but the manual doesn’t say they need to be met in any required time apart from 7 days.

    I think that they still were thinking local minimisation- the lowest priorities need not be discarded under W2- on the 9/1,

    Indeed, they appear to have reversed the order of priorities. They were more interested in keeping Fernvale and Mt Crosby bridges open than protecting the integrity of the flood reserve.

    then by the 10/1 the Lockyer started its rapid rise and the focus shifted to avoiding the Lockyer peak,before,during and immediately after if possible.They wanted to avoid putting too much water into the river before the Lockyer arrived at a faster speed and climbed on the back of any elevated releases moving downstream.

    You mean a backup flood? Again they had their priorities the wrong way around. Strategy W3 says:

    “The primary consideration is Protecting Urban Areas from Inundation”

    Whatever happened to that consideration?

    Unfortunately,upstream inflows[after slackening quickly p.m. 10/1 ,

    There was nothing unfortunate about taking so long to get to the W2/W3 targets. It required intentional contradiction of the manual’s priority order.

    The Lockyer was pushing in 700+ cusecs at the junction early 11/1,

    which was 36 hours after the W2 target should have been reached, even with the non-hindsight information I have.

    as they were releasing 2,700 and climbing. They were through W2,then W3 to W4 by midnight because of that second peak

    To conform to W3, they should actually have reduced releases from before 9 am Tuesday to keep the flow within 4,000 m3/s. So they were actually operating in a no-man’s land outside of the manual until they switched to W4.

    and the intense rains overnight 11/1,which were well in excess of even the closest modelling forecasts. These explosive developments do make actions on the 8/1 look inadequate

    They make them look inadequate on the 9th and 10th as well when the manual says they should have been in W2/W3.

    but they were outside forecast reach.

    No forecast was necessary on the 9th or 10th. All they had to do was look at their gauges and obey the manual, unless they want to weasel out of what the manual means.

    Hazard a guess on the size/volume of a lower peak if more water was pushed out 8-9/1?

    I’ll just stick to 9-10-early 11/1. As I said above, they let through 280 Gl in excess of 3,500 m3/s over the period that savages exceeded 3,500 m3/s. If they had switched to W2 with 3,500 m3/s at an average time of 3 am Sunday the 9th (and the heavy rain had actually fallen in the Stanley by then or shortly thereafter), then they would never have needed to let savages get over 3,500 m3/s. I haven’t checked the figures but I guess the Brisbane River in Brisbane would never have got higher then a minor flood.

    By the way, where do you get your flow rate information etc from? You seem to be able to come up with figures when you want to.

  2. @Nick

    It is not clear that the operators decisions were not made to a reasonable standard in real time with real time data.

    Why do you keep trying to imply that I’m talking about anything other than real time data?

  3. @Donald Oats

    An infeasibly large amount of water arrived in a sequence and at a rate that makes flooding impossible to avoid, as far as I can see.

    Then how about this: they let through 280 Gl in excess of 3,500 m3/s over the period that Savages exceeded 3,500 m3/s. If they had switched to W2 with 3,500 m3/s at an average time of 3 am Sunday the 9th (and the 250 mm+ rain had actually fallen in the Stanley by then or shortly thereafter), then they would never have needed to let Savages get over 3,500 m3/s. I haven’t checked the figures but I guess with 3,500 m3/s at Savages, the Brisbane River in Brisbane would probably never have got higher then a minor flood and even less likely a major flood.

    There needs to be a very, very good reason why an avoidable flood was sent to Brisbane as a result of actions contrary to the highest priority for flood mitigation.

  4. @Chris O’Neill
    Isn’t it obvious that the operators do not know-as opposed to project,guess or suspect- at any point what the data is going to be ahead of time. In contrast,you and I have been attempting to review their actions in the light of knowing what unfolds. We have not seen the forecasts in the sequence they arrived. Any inquiry,done properly,will work through the days tabling the data and projections in full and as received to understand the decisions made in the sequence they were made.

    Hedley Thomas is up to the same thing,and demonstrating the huge gulf that exists between journalistic and scientific standards of analysis and judgement. For instance ,in one of his articles he expressed incredulity that in the face of forecasts for possible falls of 100-200mm the operators acted as they did. Yet from what we have seen if that forecast had been born out,there was adequate capacity in Wivenhoe to deal with 100-200mm. That tells me a lot about Hedley Thomas’ actual grasp of the detail,because what actually eventuated were falls of 250-800mm in the time frame of that forecast. To Hedley the 100-200 figure was a gotcha,but an inquiry is not going to make those presumptions. Sure,operators do not take forecasts as gospel and are well versed in ranges of possibility,but that example was a very big discrepancy between projections and eventualities. It is not at all clear that they were not caught out by dynamic weather changes and the inevitable imprecision of forecasts.

    You are presuming that the operators were not at W2 stage because the releases do not ,to you,reflect what you think they should have been doing if you were in the operations centre.

  5. @Nick

    Isn’t it obvious that the operators do not know-as opposed to project,guess or suspect- at any point what the data is going to be ahead of time. In contrast,you and I have been attempting to review their actions in the light of knowing what unfolds. We have not seen the forecasts in the sequence they arrived.

    My comments were not based on the forecasts. They were only based on the actual level in the dam and the rain that had already fallen or the rain I expect would have fallen at the time. I have been comparing their actions with the requirements of the manual. Part of the issue is that the manual does not absolutely require any particular release rate but the intent of the manual is quite clear, e.g. where the manual says (for W2):

    “the primary consideration changes from Minimising Impact to Downstream Rural Life to Protecting Urban Areas from Inundation.”

    and for which the target maximum flow is:

    “The lesser of:
    • the natural peak flow at Lowood excluding Wivenhoe Dam releases, and;
    • 3,500m3/s.”

    What does that mean they should do?

    I expect this question will come out in court and its answer will determine whether SEQWater or the state government is liable.

    Hedley Thomas is up to the same thing

    No, I’m not doing the same thing he is. I’m comparing facts that existed at the time and the manual with actions by the operators.

    You are presuming that the operators were not at W2 stage because the releases do not ,to you,reflect what you think they should have been doing if you were in the operations centre.

    No, I’m presuming that the operators were not at W2 or W3 stage because the releases do not reflect the intent of the manual. The problem with the manual is that it that it does not require any specific minimum release rate at these strategies. However, given that it does allow 2,000 m3/s for strategy W1E, it hardly makes any sense to be releasing less than 2,000 m3/s in W2. They weren’t doing this until probably at least 24 hours after they should have switched to W2.

    The fact remains that they sent an avoidable flood according to the manual down to Brisbane. The operators and the government will be able to fight it out in court to decide whose fault it was.

  6. Well, I assume that what you have claimed here is the truth based on some provable statements. If yes, it is a really serious matter. I see that it was from a part a human failure but we should go more beyond the frontiers. Disasters are happening all around us and despite of forecasts and warnings almost all of them have fatal consequences. We should learn a lesson out of that and make the safeguard more reliable and trustworthy.

  7. @Chris O’Neill
    Chris – I dont know – perhaps more water could have been released over the weekend – bfore the crisis week. It certainly seems a lot of water was released at a time it was likely to cause the most damage along the Brisbane river – but a burst dam is even more horrible to think about.

    We dont know yet but maybe they are reasonable questions. We need the inquiry but by the time of the findings I suspect many will have lost the resources to fight.

    All I know is a few years ago I admired the Brisbane waterfront apartments as being do much cheaper than Sydney and with a great lifestyle a ferry away from the city. Watching on TV – ferry stop gone, high rise apartments sitting three stories under water, the gateway bridge under threat…

    It could have been so much worse and it was bad enough..

    The time now is also to ask about development and planning policies. They didnt build those older Brisbane houses on stilts for no reason, clearly.

  8. @Alice

    but a burst dam is even more horrible to think about.

    No-one’s arguing about that. The argument is about how they got themselves into that mess in the first place.

    The time now is also to ask about development and planning policies.

    Indeed. King tides go above the minor flood level along the lower river and some built-up areas are regularly flooded by these tides. What sort of planning process allowed this to happen?

  9. This is getting incredibly boring.

    If Chris O’Neill wants to blame people after the event, and wave vague court action around, then he had better show which part of the recent floods were not on the expected flood plan charts.

    Copy at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.map-vn1550973

    If he wants to prosecute his case, then which other dams and watersheds also have faulty management? Was Wivenhoe the only dam with such potential flooding? Or is he just running with 20/20 hindsight?

  10. @Chris O’Neill .

    I don’t think Wivenhoe gained a lot on Saturday 8/1,which is why mean release to 24hrs to midnight Saturday was probably around 80-100 GL [seenas a lesser figure at Savage’s]. Later on Sunday Wivenhoe would have leapt up. Rainfall in the catchment 24 hours to 9am Sunday 9/1 was not very significant,mostly under 30mm. Much of the catchment had seen more the previous 24 hours,so stream flows were dropping. Only the upper Stanley saw bigger falls of 75 to 100mm,with Maleny topping at 124mm. While Somerset obviously responded to that,I don’t think inflows into Wivenhoe were that huge. Then the big totals turned up basin-wide in the 24hours to 9am Monday 10/1,and that’s when the dam jumped in time for the SEQwater report of 148.4%. Then they were seeing buffer vanish faster than anticipated[?],and the rain event culminated in the most intense falls dropping in an area between Mt Glorious and Marburg centred over the dam wall itself. There’s 1000km2 of catchment feeding into Wivenhoe from the east off the D’AiguilarRange that saw the heaviest rain over the last 30 hours,up to 500mm,plus the dam surface itself.I don’t know whether these streams [Reedy Creek, Sandy Creek,Northbrook Creek,Kipper Creek,etc] are gauged

    I do wonder about the way meteorological info is integrated into the decision process,beyond rainfall telemetry.

    There was model consensus of big falls in the area Sunshine Coast to Northern Rivers over times in the preceding week and more which had not eventuated in any widespread way.The heaviest rain around the 6-7-8th was in the lower Mary River,causing flooding there.Then the models firmed up for the Sunshine/Northern Rivers again. What did this mean to Flood Ops? Were there enough heads to crunch the information? Were there enough heads at BOM to cover multiple basins?

    There is discretion granted to the operators,and while I wouldn’t say the manual demanded greater releases before the 10th ,it certainly allowed them. Was their meteo info too caveated to convey the worst case developments as really likely?

    I really can’t share your certainty,Chris,but thanks for the discussion.

  11. @Nick

    I don’t think Wivenhoe gained a lot on Saturday 8/1,

    Neither do I. The dam appeared to be below 68.5 m that day and they appeared to be operating in W1.

    which is why mean release to 24hrs to midnight Saturday was probably around 80-100 GL [seenas a lesser figure at Savage’s]. Later on Sunday Wivenhoe would have leapt up. Rainfall in the catchment 24 hours to 9am Sunday 9/1 was not very significant,mostly under 30mm. Much of the catchment had seen more the previous 24 hours,so stream flows were dropping. Only the upper Stanley saw bigger falls of 75 to 100mm,with Maleny topping at 124mm.

    Peachester actually. A lot of those falls fell between 5 am and 8 am and caused rises in the Stanley and Kilcoy Creek soon after. Here’s the radar archive. Those weren’t huge falls but they should have taken the forecast dam level above 68.5 m.

    While Somerset obviously responded to that,I don’t think inflows into Wivenhoe were that huge.

    Somerset and Wivenhoe should be considered together.

    Then the big totals turned up basin-wide in the 24hours to 9am Monday 10/1,and that’s when the dam jumped in time for the SEQwater report of 148.4%.

    The big falls started around 11 am Sunday morning (when Wivenhoe was already too high) and continued right through the afternoon. The dam operators didn’t seem to do anything at all until 2 pm.

    Then they were seeing buffer vanish faster than anticipated[?],

    They had seen buffer vanish by 11 am on Sunday morning that they failed to respond to for hours afterwards. By 7.30 pm the dam was increasing in volume by 9 Gl/hour or 2,500 m3/s.
    Even if they had released at the full W2 target, 3,500 m3/s, the dam would still have kept rising. (This also means they should have switched to W3 around that time.) The fact that they were releasing at only a fraction of this rate at that time, 1,500 m3/s, is absolutely astounding. The term “dereliction of duty” comes to mind.

    I do wonder about the way meteorological info is integrated into the decision process,beyond rainfall telemetry.

    Even just looking at dam level should have made them perform far better than they did.

    What did this mean to Flood Ops? Were there enough heads to crunch the information? Were there enough heads at BOM to cover multiple basins?

    I think it should have taken only one head to decide that the dam level was too high and rising.

    Was their meteo info too caveated to convey the worst case developments as really likely?

    That’s irrelevant to my prime argument. They didn’t need any meteo information to know that their dams were too high and rising faster and faster.

    I really can’t share your certainty,Chris

    Two things are certain.

    1. If they had acted immediately the dam went above 68.5 m (some time before 11 am Sunday) and tried to prevent the dam rising as allowed by the manual then the flood would have been far less. I suggested earlier that switching to W2 at 3 am Sunday would have eliminated moderate flooding in Brisbane. This would have required appropriate meteo information so it’s not certain. What is certain is that they could have stopped the dam rising until around 7 or 8 pm Sunday, at which time Strategy W3 should have been operating with its target rate of 4,000 m3/s. They would then have been able to keep it to 4,000 m3/s for the rest of the event without endangering the dam.

    2. Comments such as “SEQWater followed the manual” are quite disingenuous.

  12. Chris O’Neill :
    @Chris Warren

    This is getting incredibly boring.

    Chris Warren is incredibly impertinent.

    Unfortunately he is not qualified to make such a judgement and his attempt only confirms my point.

    The question still stands. Which streets in Brisbane, not identified on the flood plan map, suffered significant damage?

    If there is some issue of water management which should have been known before the event, then does this apply to other dams in Queensland?

    Or is O’Neill jumping up and down in a fit of irrelevant hindsight?

    Did the authorities offer property owners a buy-out option for their flood-prone properties?

    If Queensland had managed to keep developers, real estate agents, Nationals, and Liberals out of power, the banks of the Brisbane river could well have become a huge swathe of parkland, well suited to manage 1 in 200 year floods without huge dams or recycling plants.

    How much wingeing should we have to stomach now?

  13. I guess we will have to wait for the enquiry now. Although, I do wonder if it will be objective or a witchhunt for scapegoats (to mix a metaphor).

    Intriguingly, Bligh has fogotten one of the first (opportunist) rules of government. Never implement an enquiry if you don’t know the answer already. This enquiry could sink Bligh (although she is probably already sunk from the sell-off of government assets).

  14. I ought to add that Chris O’Neill’s posts do raise a very good point. While I don’t agree with second-guessing an already past event with the benefit of hindsight, I do agree that Wivenhoe flood management protocols could and perhaps should be completely overhauled.

    1. Water supply storage could be set at 100% or at 75% as per Prof JQs ideas. I would argue for 100% as the drought and 16% levels are still fresh in my memory.

    2. The Wivenhoe flood compartment could be managed with a view to flood mitigation in major urban areas only. (Chris O’Neill’s position.)

    3. Therefore at any level above 100% (or 75% in JQ’s scenario), Wivenhoe should continuously release at the maximum rate possible consistent with NOT flooding the major urban areas.

    4. Point 3 would require careful management and calibration as all other branch inflows (Bremer, lockyer etc.) would have to be continuously monitored and modelled in real time.

    5. The maximum rate mentioned in point 3 would be a maximum safe rate with a tolerance or allowance for maximum expected error in the modelling of all other inflows.

    This would still be a complicated management regime which could never totally guarantee against 2 things namely;

    (a) an overwhelming event which overwhelms all mitigation capacity.
    (b) inadeqaute allowance for prediction errors re other inflows.

  15. @Chris O’Neill
    Keeping it to 4,000 cumecs, combined with the near record flood on the Lockyer [higher than ’74] intense local falls in the catchments between the Lockyer junction and Moggill,and the Bremer,sees the river between high 5 and 6,000cumecs in Bris by my rough estimates,possibly more. Definitely a moderate flood in Bris,getting to major threshholds.So maybe a metre less than what we saw. Not an ‘avoidable flood’ but a better outcome.

    Comments by SEQwater that they followed the manual were clearly preliminary, made in lieu of truly formulated statements. They have not been allowed to say any more because of the inquiry. If you can’t be sure,as you often note, what phase of the process they were in,then you really can’t say they were disingenuous,Chris.

  16. My sympathies are with Chris Warren, all the embroidering and disassembling doesn’t answer his simple fundamental question, which areas go flooded that weren’t on the flood maps, why and what should be done (I like the parklands approach, personally).

  17. @Nick

    Keeping it to 4,000 cumecs, combined with the near record flood on the Lockyer [higher than ’74]

    You weren’t paying attention. I was talking about the flow at Savages as I had been all along.

    intense local falls in the catchments between the Lockyer junction and Moggill,and the Bremer,sees the river between high 5 and 6,000cumecs in Bris

    Correcting your mistake above would, I guess, bring it down by 1,000 m3/s. But I was just going by the manual (I note you defend other people who say they were just going by the manual) which says:

    “In relation to these targets, it should be noted that depending on natural
    flows from the Lockyer and Bremer catchments, it may not be possible to limit the flow at
    Moggill to below 4000 m3/s.”

    Definitely a moderate flood in Bris,

    No, not definitely. 4,000 m3/s at Savages after the flood peak produced less than a moderate flood level at Moggill 24 hours later. I believe that is about the delay from Savages to Moggill. Also, when they should have cranked Wivenhoe up to 4,000 m3/s as allowed by the manual on Sunday evening, the Bremer had a very low flow and the vast majority of its catchment was still a long way from where the rain was falling. But as I as said, I’m only suggesting what the manual allows. If you don’t like what the manual allows, take it up with the manual’s authority.

    So maybe a metre less than what we saw. Not an ‘avoidable flood’ but a better outcome.

    Definitely a metre less than what we saw and a vastly better outcome. The relation between flood level and damage is highly non-linear. For example, I’d guess a few hundred homes at most flooded to the floor just below the major flood level as opposed to the thousands that were actually flooded. And that’s assuming 4,000 m3/s as allowed by the manual actually would get to just below the major flood level.

    Comments by SEQwater that they followed the manual were clearly preliminary, made in lieu of truly formulated statements.

    I like the weasel words.

    They have not been allowed to say any more because of the inquiry.

    How convenient.

    If you can’t be sure,as you often note, what phase of the process they were in,

    I was sure what phase they should have been in and that’s what the manual refers to.

    then you really can’t say they were disingenuous,Chris.

    Ok, if they weren’t in the phase they should have been in then Dennien was lying. Take your pick, disingenuous or lying.

  18. By the way, Dennien said:

    “We went into Monday holding what the dam manual told us to hold,”

    implying that that was a specific volume of water which it isn’t.

  19. 1. Water supply storage could be set at 100% or at 75% as per Prof JQs ideas. I would argue for 100% as the drought and 16% levels are still fresh in my memory.

    Another suggestion is to get rid of the allowance for those silly low bridges on the river just below the dam by building a couple of decent bridges. Those silly bridges forced the dam operators to let the dam get up to 68.5 m or about 115% in the day before the serious rain came along. That’s about 160 Gl of additional floodwater Brisbane had dumped on it right when it didn’t want it.

  20. Chris Warren :

    Chris O’Neill :
    @Chris Warren

    This is getting incredibly boring.

    Chris Warren is incredibly impertinent.

    Unfortunately he is not qualified to make such a judgement

    How do you know? Your offensive comment was impertinent to the discussion. You can start your own discussion if you like but try not to be offensively impertinent.

  21. @Chris O’Neill
    Ah,my mistake,not 4000 cumecs through the gate. 4000 at Savages,which on ‘low-flo’ Sunday,when they averaged maybe 1500 cumecs gate/ 1400 w/Lockyer, would have been near 5000 cumecs or so through the gate. Then Monday/Tuesday they crank it back to accommodate the near record flood on the L. and try to avoid too much backing up the Bremer and lower the main river flood. 1500 per day from the Bremer, x for a day from the 600km2 minor catchments to Moggill [500mm over 48 hours for that entire area]. Bundamba Creek,and balance Brisbane Creeks d/s Moggill unaccounted for. 6000 peak still possible.

    Sorry,Chris,I’m still not ready to call people liars or derelict in their duty, while quite able to accept a failure to absolutely optimise the result.

  22. Ok we obviously have an internet nutter here, calling for legal action and accusing workers of

    “dereliction of duty”

    and crying “impertinent”, “impertinent”, “impertinent” when this is tattooed across his own forehead.

    He has been asked:

    Which streets in Brisbane, not identified on the flood plan map, suffered significant damage? The link to the maps was; http://nla.gov.au/nla.map-vn1550973

    If there is some issue of water management which should have been known before the event, then does this apply to other dams in Queensland?

    Did the authorities offer property owners a buy-out option for their flood-prone properties?

    A normal response to the floods may well include revising manuals, operating procedures etc, not the abnormal – I know everything – response we are being blighted with in this thread.

  23. I had not realised this was Chris O’Neil’s discussion. I may be terribly old-fashioned but I thought it was Prof Q’s discussion and it was for him to tell people when they should start their own discussion. I would also like to see an answer to Chris Warren’s questions at #14.

  24. @Chris Warren
    Chris – I suggest we all wait for the inquiry before you accuse Chris ONeill of being a “nutter”. An inquiry into protocols and dam management, given the scale of the disaster, is an appropriate event.
    It is right to ask questions and you cant deny that right to Chris ONeill. There are hundreds possibly thousands (more likely thousands) who have suffered loss here.

  25. @Alice

    People who do ask questions of Chris O’Neil tend to get dealt with somewhat peremptorily. I agree the inquiry is important. I am not sure either the inquiry or our understanding is being advanced by the wall of text we are seeing in this thread. There are much broader policy concerns that come out of widespread flooding across 3 states than dam operations.

  26. @Alice

    Or alternatively; wait until a thread gets a 4th page without making any real progress.

    By then it is pretty clear.

    Anyway the option is there for this individual to provide some evidence, so we will just have to wait.

  27. @Chris Warren
    Actually Chris – I dont think its fair to say Chris Oneill has not provided any evidence reading back over his posts. There is a lot of claims there and what appears to be evidence. I dont think you can so easily write it off as no evidence…but again we need to wit for the inquiry. Im sure there will be lawsuits. What way they will go is anyones guess but you cant anticipate no lawsuits against the government. After all it is a right of people these days to sue governments if they suffer a commercial loss because of government actions….
    Never mind that such legal actions it might just damage governments irreparably – thats for the rest of us to work out when that happens.

  28. @Alice

    OK – specifically what evidence of dereliction or illegal conduct is there that applied before the event?

    Everyone taking a more mature approach – ie not crying dereliction of duty – not calling for legal action – are quite willing to see manuals, performance and procedures reviewed. But this is normal.

    Surely if there was dereliction and negligence, then it would be apparent for other dams as well. Also the evidence would have been visible before a flood.

    All manner of denialists claim they have evidence, but usually it is just opinionated assertion or opportunist wingeing after an event.

    Why should anyone be accused of dereliction of duty? Possible problems (only demonstrated by a real life experience) with manuals and procedures, and the exercise of discretion are not “dereliction of duty”.

    We saw the same opportunistic wingeing after the 2006(?) Canberra bushfires. And probably after the Victorian fires too.

    Claims are not evidence.

  29. @Chris Warren
    http://wapedia.mobi/en/Black_Saturday_bushfires?t=11.
    and “The largest litigation in ACT Supreme Court history is set to double in length.

    The compensation hearing into the 2003 Canberra bushfires will determine whether ACT and/or NSW authorities are liable for damages caused by the fires.

    The hearing was originally expected to wrap up at the end of next month but it seems likely the marathon case will continue in 2011.

    Plaintiff QBE insurance is expected to call a dozen witnesses over the next fortnight including the team leader of CSIRO’s Bushfire Dynamics and Applications Group Jim Gould and the ACT Government’s manager of fire, forests and roads Neil Cooper….

    These cases are still going on Chris. They are not yet resolved. It is not simply opportunistic whingeing.

  30. At the risk of adding my impertinence to everyone elses, it seems that an interim conclusion could hold that the flood mitigation strategies, if ever truly extant, worked to a degree.
    Hence an inquiry held could be beneficial also in apportioning credit to whatever good thinking tookp0lace esp after 1974 and an examination of how some thing pointing in the right direction can be made to work better- surely not a poor idea, given the large parts of Brisbane and Queensland in general that did appear to be under water, as they say, after the heavy rains and the problems some face in retreiving insurance damages to ease their plight despite the regularity of their premium payments?
    Perhaps the inquiry could ascertain whether low-lying land previously identified as flood prone was still opened up for “development”later and why?

  31. @Nick

    not 4000 cumecs through the gate. 4000 at Savages,which on ‘low-flo’ Sunday,when they averaged maybe 1500 cumecs gate/ 1400 w/Lockyer, would have been near 5000 cumecs or so through the gate.

    I don’t know for sure why there is a discrepancy been the gate flow and Savages but I would expect its more likely due to calibration than hydrology. You can’t have lower flow downstream for long periods just from hydrology.

    But assuming that 4,000 at the gate + Lockyer equals something less at the Savages gauge, this would mean that 4,000 m3/s at the gate + Lockyer from 8 pm Sunday night on its own would not have been sufficient to stop the dam getting too high right through the event. The first point is that I haven’t included the W2 releases that they should have been doing from no later than 11 am Sunday morning. These would have kept the dam down to 68.5 m or thereabouts until 7-8 pm Sunday evening so that’s another 35 Gl lower that it should have been at 8 pm when they should have started W3 (at the latest). That would have allowed another 500 m3/s to be held back over the entire 72-73 hours until the end of the event. I don’t know the accurate calibration of the gauge at the dam compared with Savages but that 500 m3/s would have come pretty close to compensating for it.

    Then Monday/Tuesday they crank it back to accommodate the near record flood on the L.

    Yes they would have had to crank the dam back on Tuesday to keep it down to 4,000 m3/s which is what the manual requires if it’s possible. As we all know they did the exact opposite. At that stage their attitude was (quite understandably) “to hell with the Lockyer, we’ve got a dam to worry about”.

    and try to avoid too much backing up the Bremer and lower the main river flood. 1500 per day from the Bremer, x for a day from the 600km2 minor catchments to Moggill [500mm over 48 hours for that entire area]. Bundamba Creek,and balance Brisbane Creeks d/s Moggill unaccounted for. 6000 peak still possible.

    I know you’re trying to argue that it wouldn’t have made much difference but the facts indicate completely differently. If you think 6,000 could have happened anyway then it would have been 9,000 that they actually allowed to happen. You can’t tell me that that would not make a huge difference to the flood damage. As I said, the relation between damage and flood level is highly non-linear.

    On a detailed point, the Bremer generally may put them in an awkward and conflicting position if they want to time the flows to avoid co-inciding peaks. I said the Bremer was still low when they should have been cranking up the releases much faster than they were. This was fortunate because there was much less rain over the Bremer catchment than further north but they failed to take advantage of that opportunity anyway. But in general, if the rain arrives simultaneously everywhere then it would start flooding in Ipswich before they could get the cranked-up flow from the dam down to Moggill (because Ipswich is a lot closer to the junction than Wivenhoe), so in general they wouldn’t be able to beat the Bremer peak to the junction.

    Sorry,Chris,I’m still not ready to call people liars or derelict in their duty, while quite able to accept a failure to absolutely optimise the result.

    If you call a failure to follow the intent of the manual a failure to optimise then it was a failure to optimise. You have to ask yourself the question, what does

    “TARGET MAXIMUM FLOW IN THE BRISBANE RIVER Moggill • 4,000m3/s”

    mean? Other than something disingenuous, of course.

    Perhaps when they bring out the next version of the manual it should have on the front page:

    MANUAL OF OPERATIONAL PROCEDURES FOR FLOOD MITIGATION AT WIVENHOE DAM AND SOMERSET DAM:

    TIME AND FLOOD WAIT FOR NO MAN

  32. @Chris Warren

    Ok we obviously have an internet nutter here,

    I like the self-reference.

    calling for legal action

    I didn’t call for legal action. I just said there would be. There effectively already is because there is already an Inquiry announced.

    and accusing workers of “dereliction of duty”

    with evidence which you think is “incredibly boring” because you’re not an engineer and you like being offensive.

    and crying “impertinent”, “impertinent”, “impertinent” when this is tattooed across his own forehead.

    Spare us the hypocrisy.

    He has been asked:
    Which streets in Brisbane,

    You can ask, but that doesn’t oblige me or anyone else to answer and it doesn’t entitle you to be offensive about anything else that may be discussed.

  33. @Alan

    I am not sure either the inquiry or our understanding is being advanced by the wall of text we are seeing in this thread.

    I’m sorry if technical detail bores you but if you don’t like walls of text then stay well away from any detail in the inquiry. You can ignore everything I say and just wait until the outcome of the inquiry is announced in the newspapers.

    There are much broader policy concerns that come out of widespread flooding across 3 states than dam operations.

    On the contrary. The success or failure of dam operations has a great impact on policy. Professor Quiggin suggested that policy may need to be changed as a consequence of what dam operations achieved. I have gone to a great deal of trouble to show that dam operations could have and should have achieved far better.

  34. On the contrary. The success or failure of dam operations has a great impact on policy.

    As with many bricks in your wall, Chris, you represent me as arguing something I do not actually argue. To say that there are much broader policy concerns is not to say that dam operations do not have a great impact.

    I do not like walls of text because they are an ineffectual way to resolve a complex technical issue and they invariably lead to the cartoon situation of: ‘Sorry dear, I cannot come to bed yet because SOMEONE IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET!!!’

    Walls of text are just not a good way to advance understanding of events at Wivenhoe or anywhere else. In your early posts you were suggesting possible explanations, and, just for the record, I am open to the idea that operators got it wrong. But for a while now all you have done is repeat points and firmly slap anyone presumptuous enough to question you about the chops.

    Chris Warren raised an interesting and legitimate, although not decisive, point about the flood plain map. I would like you to answer it.

  35. @Chris O’Neill

    So where in all that jumble do you attempt to provide any real information. Or is it the case that in Brisbane only flood plains flooded?

    Claiming, “that doesn’t oblige me or anyone else to answer”, indicates someone who is operating as a megaphone and hasn’t attempted to get a broad, rational perspective on things.

    When this is pointed out to them, they cry – ‘impertinent’. When this is pointed out to them, they cry ‘hyprocrisy’.

    This is on top of fitting workers up with ‘dereliction of duty’ and then pretending that others pointing this out are ‘offensive’.

    So for the sake of getting a reasonable view of the circumstances as a whole:

    Which streets in Brisbane, not identified on the flood plan map, suffered significant damage? The link to the maps was; http://nla.gov.au/nla.map-vn1550973

    If there is some issue of water management which should have been known before the event, then does this apply to other dams in Queensland?

    Did the authorities offer property owners a buy-out option for their flood-prone properties?

    Tricky, nutter claims that are based on subjective basis as “the intent of the manual” are not worth the candle. A normal response to the floods may well include revising manuals, operating procedures etc, not the abnormal – I know everything – response we are being blighted with in this thread.

    The was no failure of dam operations. The failure was to permit development on flood plains which then – flooded.

    The flows of water are what you get when such quantities of water fall from the sky into a catchment.

    If the same event happens again, dam operations may be different, but this is normal.

    Jumping up-and-down in hindsight, calling for legal action, imputing dereliction of duty, refusing to look for objective evidence, producing subjective claims about some vague “intent’ of a manual, are not normal responses to the actual circumstances.

  36. @Chris O’Neill
    ‘Target maximum flow’at any gauge means the upper flow limit deemed desirable there…we all know that. Failing to test that limit at the time you think from hindsight they should have does not constitute violation of policy,dereliction of duty or lead to the inevitability of disingenuous deflections by the operators. It simply constitutes your puzzling eagerness to deliver a verdict before the case is well explored. The ability to re-shape a time curve/flood profile after the fact proves little about the information environment experienced by the operators in the moment. This is not an environment we can do any more than sketch and speculate over from this distance.

    I would never argue equivalence between 6,000 and 9,000 cumecs in any sense,and did not. I’d argue both figures are easily +/- 1000 anyway,given the documented range of figures arrived at by experts for Brisbane gauges.. I will argue that the no-Wivenhoe flood,which will have to be determined by the inquiry as a matter of process,would have been much bigger again. Again,no engineers have actually ‘done’ a live flood at this dam in preparation for their tasks,a non-trivial fact.

  37. I’m not surprised Chris O’Neill hasn’t answered Chris Warren’s question ‘Which streets in Brisbane, not identified on the flood plan map, suffered significant damage? The link to the maps was; http://nla.gov.au/nla.map-vn1550973‘. The question from Chris Warren misses the point. Of course the areas that suffered damage in Brisbane were those identified on the flood plain map. Floods go into areas identified on the flood plain map, and the flood plain map is based on the 1974 flood levels, which as we all know was 1 metre higher than the 2011 floods. Chris O’Neill’s argument has been whether the flood levels could have been reduced by better management of the Wivenhoe Dam ie could better management have led to the water going into less areas on the flood plain map than actually occurred in 2011.

  38. @Nick

    ‘Target maximum flow’at any gauge means the upper flow limit deemed desirable there…we all know that. Failing to test that limit at the time you think from hindsight they should have does not constitute violation of policy,dereliction of duty or lead to the inevitability of disingenuous deflections by the operators.

    How about failing to get near that limit until 44 hours later? How long have they got before it becomes dereliction of duty? A week?

    It simply constitutes your puzzling eagerness to deliver a verdict before the case is well explored.

    How is it puzzling? No-one sends an avoidable flood according to the manual or half-sensible engineering design down to Brisbane without some error or deficiency.

    The ability to re-shape a time curve/flood profile after the fact proves little about the information environment experienced by the operators in the moment.

    What time curve/flood profile was in the manual? What more information do they need than the dam is too high and rising, as well as heavy rain and continuing forecasts of heavy rain? What was the point of having a flood reserve if they weren’t trying very hard to look after it?

    This is not an environment we can do any more than sketch and speculate over from this distance.

    There is no doubt that a mistake was probably made because they took the risk of causing what actually happened. Are you trying to argue that they were extremely unlucky? How often did they expect to cause the flood that they caused? Every 37 years?

    I would never argue equivalence between 6,000 and 9,000 cumecs in any sense,and did not. I’d argue both figures are easily +/- 1000 anyway,given the documented range of figures arrived at by experts for Brisbane gauges.

    So what?

    I will argue that the no-Wivenhoe flood,which will have to be determined by the inquiry as a matter of process,would have been much bigger again.

    So what? No-one’s arguing that. It would hope the flood was smaller with Wivenhoe. Something would be very wrong if it wasn’t.

    Again,no engineers have actually ‘done’ a live flood at this dam in preparation for their tasks,a non-trivial fact.

    So you agree there’s a mistake due to inexperience.

    I’ve also had a look at what they were doing and supposed to do at Somerset dam. The manual specifies that they are supposed to use a strategy, S2, which presumably is a flood reserve preservation strategy, whenever it gets above FSL. For reasons best known to the supposedly private business involved, SEQWater, they have censored this section. However, on the Friday before the event they had let Somerset get up to 107.2% or 27 Gl excess. I don’t know what excuse they had for this because they have censored that section. However the only bridge I can see between Somerset and Wivenhoe is a high level bridge so I don’t think there was an excuse for keeping Somerset at 107.2%. It will be interesting to see why it was this high, especially considering they have censored the strategy they were required to perform at the time.

  39. @Alan

    As with many bricks in your wall, Chris, you represent me as arguing something I do not actually argue. To say that there are much broader policy concerns is not to say that dam operations do not have a great impact.

    So your statement was a non-sequitur to my discussion. Sorry if I misrepresented you but I was misled by your non-sequitur.

    I do not like walls of text

    Well then don’t read read them.

    lead to the cartoon situation of: ‘Sorry dear, I cannot come to bed yet because SOMEONE IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET!!!’

    I think you’ve left your self-hypocrisy test switched off.

    But for a while now all you have done is repeat points

    Thank you for your zero-value opinion.

    I would like you to answer it.

    Am I your servant?

  40. Professor Quiggin, could you ask Chris Warren to refrain from making offensive comments on the issues I am considering. He can order me to answer his questions if he likes but I don’t think the offensive statements are appropriate.

  41. @Chris O’Neil

    You defend your wall of text from the charge of repetition and peremptory attacks on those who question you by repeating yourself and personally attacking those who question you. It is an interesting debating tactic but I am not absolutely certain that it is a persuasive exercise in logical thought.

    Perhaps you would do better just to address Chris Warren’s question. That is not a matter of being anyone’s servant. It is a matter of strengthening your argument.

  42. @Johncanb

    Everyone can review management of dams in the light of experience, and no-one is suggesting otherwise.

    O’Neill is blaming workers for what they did before and during an event. If this technique was appropriate – then it would be applicable at other Queensland dams. He has been asked to demonstrate his relevancy elsewhere, but has failed.

    I would be more concerned about raking over technicalities of manuals etc if there was some specific damage from not doing some, purported, X, Y or Z. He has been asked to point to this damage – but has failed.

    From you post I presume you closed your eyes at the threat of legal action, and cries of dereliction of duty.

    I expect that after every flood right across Australia, if not the world, there are always dams, levees, weirs and flood plain manuals etc that need to be reviewed and updated in the light of experience. This is normal and not the point.

    Claims – manufactured from hindsight – do not constitute evidence that is useful for public policy. He is now accusing workers of “inexperience”. Well where do you get experience with such events?

    It seems to me that the workers were appropriately experienced and no unexpected harm was done that should have been prevented by sensible planning controls based on objective flood maps which are easily available.

    He is now claiming that the manuals are “censored”. I do not have the time to sort this latest canard out.

    Flood plains flood. Even if current manuals are changed – the next flood could be entirely different – so if some poor worker followed the new manual – they would then be accused after the event by those like O’Neill.

    So the key issue is where was/is there flooding that was not on the flood map.

    Floods flood flood-plains. You can’t fight nature. And you can’t blame scapegoats for this.

    I am not surprised O’Neill has not answered the questions, because the answers are:

    There was no damage off floodplains.

    Property owners had opportunities to access buy-outs.

    Planners (and their guidelines and decisions) need more attention that dam workers.

  43. @Chris Warren
    I dont know why on earth you re being so hard on Chris ONeill. He has the right to ask these questions and is asking them. If you think they will just go away and wont be asked at all…that isnt likely. Lawsuits continue from the Canberra Bushfires and the Victorian Bushfires as at this day and are not resolved.

    I am damn sure there will be lawsuits against the government or government agencies in one form or another from these floods. It is totally naive to think there wont be.

    And perhaps there should be given they have allowed every tom Dick and Harry Triguboff to built Meriton style units on the riverfront front – nothing but pure greed and lack of foresight. None of this rush to construct at such high densities have we been able to forestall on planning grounds, whether in Brisbane or in Sydney.

    Yet infrastructure maintenance to accommodate it has been sadly lacking. You forget the ratings agencies in the US are really in charge and are ordering destruction of government here in Australia.

    I dont care anymore. I say bring it on. People might finanlly wake up that neither major party here in Oz is worth a cracker.

  44. @Chris O’Neill
    Gee,buddy,you’re hard work. I do not “agree there is a mistake”,particularly as I’d already noted I was not willing to pass judgement yet. I observed, as something to contemplate rather than use to finalise a verdict , that there is inevitable inexperience,as this is the first event of a large scale since the dams construction.

    In a nutshell,you’ve decided post fact the optimum five day performance by the dam operators according to your brief acquaintance with the manual and without seeing the data in full or as it was received. Anything less than this hypothetical optimum performance is failure indicating dereliction of duty,etc. It’s all a little presumptuous.

  45. @Alice

    No one has the right to accuse workers of:

    – going away at the weekend
    – massive negligence
    – violating policy
    – causing legal action
    – dereliction of duty
    – sending a flood down
    etc

    All without evidence.

    All based on hindsight and opinion.

    All of no moment as, based on evidence, only a flood plain flooded.

    He needs to either produce evidence that workers were absent – or withdraw this fabrication.

    He either needs to substantiate his claims or withdraw his fabrications of negligence, violating policy, and dereliction.

    He is the architect of his own misfortune.

  46. @Nick

    ,buddy,you’re hard work.

    I could say the same thing about yourself.

    I do not “agree there is a mistake”,

    So what was the point of saying:

    Again,no engineers have actually ‘done’ a live flood at this dam in preparation for their tasks,a non-trivial fact

    unless it means they could have done better knowing their past mistakes?

    I observed, as something to contemplate

    Wasn’t it possible to simulate or a least think about what would happen with a flood of this magnitude, which is not unprecedented?

    In a nutshell,you’ve decided post fact the optimum five day performance by the dam operators

    What I decided has nothing to do with the characteristics of this particular flood. The optimum with any flood based on any reasonable risk weighting is to get the release to natural inflow or 3,500 or 4,000 m3/s as soon as possible after the dam goes above 68.5 m, not 44 hours later, especially when the forecasts are for continuing heavy rain. They should have known the optimum by 2 pm Sunday afternoon, just from the data I’ve been able to get, not after the whole event. If they were able to get more data than me, then they should have acted even sooner.

    without seeing the data in full

    It’s interesting you should make a point about this when SEQWater themselves censor the information about the strategy that should have been applied at Somerset before the flood started. Isn’t it terribly convenient that we’re not allowed to see this data?

  47. @Chris Warren

    All without evidence.

    Stop lying. I provided lots of evidence of what they did compared with what they should have known they should do at the times they were doing them. You, on the other hand, were only capable of saying “incredibly boring”. Just because you don’t understand the evidence doesn’t mean there isn’t any.

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