South East Queensland
Water overview

Significant water events

In 2010–11, the South East Queensland (SEQ) region continued an average-to-wet period that started in 2009–10. In the years preceding this, water allocations were low. Drought resulted in significant changes to the operation of the urban water infrastructure, with new water sources, such as desalinisation, being developed.

The wet conditions present during the 2010–11 year resulted in the allocation announcements being 100% for all entitlements during the 2010–11 year. With 100% water allocations and the increase in surface water storage volumes, urban water restrictions were lifted to permanent conservation measures.

Significant flooding occurred within the SEQ region in January 2011, with devastating effects upon the community. Record river heights occurred in the Lockyer Creek and unprecedented flash floods caused significant damage and deaths in a number of towns. Flooding occurred throughout a number of Brisbane suburbs, including the central business district, when the Brisbane River broke its banks and reached heights not seen in 30 years (Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry 2011). The Bremer River flooded and inundated the Ipswich central business district also reaching heights not seen in 30 years (Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry 2011).

Water resource management in South East Queensland has been undergoing significant reform since 1 July 2008. Phase one of the water industry reforms occurred prior to 2010 and phase two started in 2010–11.
Events prior to the 2010–11 year

The first phase of the SEQ Water Grid saw the creation of four new, state–owned, bulk water entities:

  • Seqwater (Queensland Bulk Water Authority)
  • WaterSecure (Queensland Manufactured Water Authority) (merged with Seqwater on 1 July 2011)
  • LinkWater (Queensland Bulk Water Transport Authority)
  • SEQ Water Grid Manager.
Events during the 2010–11 year

The second phase of the reforms involved a move from council services to regional water businesses and the creation of three new entities providing water distribution and retail business from 1 July 2010:

  • Queensland Urban Utilities (amalgamating water business for Brisbane, Ipswich, Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim, Somerset councils)
  • Allconnex Water (amalgamating water business for Gold Coast, Logan and Redland councils)
  • Unitywater (amalgamating water business for Moreton Bay and Sunshine Coast councils).

Figure A3 in the Organisations responsible for water management section shows the service areas for the three urban utilities, and the council areas they now cover.

On 7 April 2011, the Queensland premier announced that sections of the South–East Queensland Water (Distribution and Retail Restructuring) Act 2009 would be repealed, allowing councils the option of continuing with or withdrawing from the water distribution and retail businesses. A legislation amendment did not occur during the 2010–11 year.

In December 2010 the Queensland Government made changes to the operating principles of the Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme. Gibson Island Advanced Water Treatment Plant and one of the two stages of the Bundamba Advanced Water Treatment Plant were placed into standby. The plants will be brought back online if surface water storage capacity trends towards less than the 40 percent trigger level.

Events after the 2010–11 year

Gold Coast City Council, Redlands City Council and Logan City Council have re-established their own retail water distribution operations on 1 July 2012 (Allconnex Water 2011d). Any withdrawal will be subject to changes in the South–East Queensland Water (Distribution and Retail Restructuring) Act 2009.

As of 1 July 2011, Brisbane, Ipswich, Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim and Somerset councils have given their support for Queensland Urban Utilities to continue as the provider of water and wastewater services in their council regions (Queensland Urban Utilities 2011a).

Moreton Bay and Sunshine Coast regional councils announced in June 2011 their intention to retain the current arrangements for the retail of water distribution and sewerage services via Unitywater (Unity Water 2011b).

On the 1 July 2011 WaterSecure merged with Seqwater, with Seqwater now responsible for managing recycled water, desalinated water, surface water and groundwater resources within the SEQ region.

During the 2010–11 year and during report preparation the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) was the licensing authority for surface water and groundwater within the SEQ region. Since this time Queensland government changes are coming into effect and DERM will cease to exist prior to the publication of this subaccount. The Department of Natural Resources and Mines and/or the Queensland Department of Energy and Water Supply will take on much of DERM's function including surface water and groundwater licensing.

Streamflow

During the 2010–11 year, total annual flow in the Albert River was 252,000 ML, which was above the long-term mean annual flow of 131,000 ML. Total annual flow in the Bremer River was 288,000 ML, which was well above the long-term mean annual flow of 62,000 ML. Total annual flow in the Brisbane River was 5,981,000 ML, which was well above the long-term mean annual flow of 885,000 ML. The total annual flow in the Logan River was 792,000 ML, which was well above the long-term mean annual flow of 312,000 ML. The well above average flows in these catchments can be attributed to well above average monthly flow volumes observed during December 2010 and January 2011 (figures W1, W2, W3 and W4). The high flows during December 2010 and January 2011 reflect the significant rainfall events that occurred during this period (see Figure C3 in Climate overview). These events resulted in significant flooding throughout the SEQ region. Figure P5 in the Physical section shows the location of the Albert, Bremer, Brisbane and Logan river flow gauges.



Figure W1. Graph of total monthly flow along Albert River (Station 145014A) during the 2010–11 year compared with long-term percentiles
Figure W1. Graph of total monthly flow along Albert River (Station 145014A) during the 2010–11 year compared with long-term percentiles



Figure W2. Graph of total monthly flow along Bremer River (Station 143107A) during the 2010–11 year compared with long-term percentiles
Figure W2. Graph of total monthly flow along Bremer River (Station 143107A) during the 2010–11 year compared with long-term percentiles



Figure W3. Graph of total monthly flow along Brisbane River (Station 143001C) during the 2010–11 year compared with long-term percentiles
Figure W3. Graph of total monthly flow along Brisbane River (Station 143001C) during the 2010–11 year compared with long-term percentiles



Figure W4. Graph of total monthly flow along Logan River (Station 145014A) during the 2010–11 year compared with long-term percentiles
Figure W4. Graph of total monthly flow along Logan River (Station 145014A) during the 2010–11 year compared with long-term percentiles

Major water initiatives

Major water initiatives were undertaken in South East Queensland, triggered by the 2006 South East Queensland Regional Drought Strategy.

Major water initiatives that were in the process of being investigated, designed, constructed or commissioned during the 2010–11 year included:

  • Wyaralong Dam Project (commissioned January 2011)
  • Wyaralong Water Treatment Plant Project (design 2010, construction 2011, commission 2012)
  • Cedar Grove Connection Project (under feasibility investigation 2010)
  • Northern Pipeline Interconnector Project Stage 2 (late 2011 completion)
  • Hinze Dam Stage 3 Project (completed December 2011).

Prior to the 2010–11 year the following initiatives occurred:

  • development of the SEQ Water Grid (2008)
  • Western Corridor Recycled Water Project (2008)
  • Gold Coast Desalination Plant (February 2009)
  • Southern Regional Water Pipeline (November 2008)
  • Cedar Grove Weir (December 2007)
  • Bromelton Off-Stream Storage (June 2008)
  • Northern Pipeline Interconnector Stage 1 (2008)
  • Eastern Pipeline Interconnector (2008).