Queensland water utilities face aftermath of Cyclone Debbie head on

Posted 10 April 2017

CycloneQueensland water utilities have weathered Tropical Cyclone Debbie and its aftermath admirably well.

In the initial impact zone, Whitsunday Regional Council's major water and sewerage treatment plants “fared better than expected,” said Chief Operating Officer – Water and Waste Troy Pettiford. 

“It is too early to put figures to the damage; assessments of the network’s condition are currently being undertaken while services get restored. But most major plants only received low-level damage,” he said. 

“Water ingress into electrical components was higher than anticipated due to the severe storm that followed the cyclone.

“Cyclone Debbie damaged the buildings that housed important electrical equipment and the follow-up storm and winds caused damage before the sites could be safely accessed to be repaired.”

Pettiford said the duration and slow movement of the cyclone also caused extensive damage to the power network that feeds the water and sewerage networks, with at least 480 power poles needing to be replaced in the region.

The council is relying on generators at major sites to restore water services in the interim. 

Inland, Mackay Regional Council was “very lucky with minimal structural damage to our water and sewer assets,” said Manager Business Services – Engineering and Commercial Infrastructure Stephen Fernando.

Following the heavy rains to the state's south, treatment plants at Kooralbyn, Beaudesert, Rathdowney, Canungra, Dayboro and Kenilworth were forced offline over the weekend due to significant local flooding. 

Queensland Urban Utilities maintained water supply to the Scenic Rim area via tankering, and many of the treatment plants are now back online. 

“There is no impact on drinking water quality in the area and there is sufficient water supply in storage at the Seqwater and Queensland Urban Utilities reservoirs for the coming days; however, residents are encouraged to continue to conserve drinking water as the system stabilises,” Seqwater said in a statement.

The state government has declared three disasters – Cyclone Debbie - North Queensland, Severe weather post-Cyclone Debbie - South-East Queensland and Flooding post-Cyclone Debbie - Rockhampton – and activated various associated grants. 

The Australian Water Association's upcoming North Queensland Regional Conference will include a Disaster Recovery Panel, featuring representatives from the affected local government areas following Cyclone Debbie.