An expression of interest in seeking a way forward for Bombala and Delegate’s problematic water supply is due later this week.
The move was flagged by the Snowy Monaro Regional Council on Tuesday following news of its success at the recent Local Government NSW water management conference.
SMRC was awarded the most improved water service utility, recognition it says of the considerable effort to “streamline and harmonise” access and pricing structures across the three former council areas.
SMRC director for operations and infrastructure Suneil Adhikari said the recognition was “a pleasant surprise” and he was very happy for his staff involved.
“After amalgamation, the three former council areas all had different pricing systems,” Mr Adhikari said.
“It’s always hard to bring about change, but we persisted and I believe the award reflects that. The agency who awarded this has recognised how difficult it is for councils to bring about that level of change.”
The council said its successful implementation of a user-pays model for water and sewer access, including non-residential customers, gives more control to households and moves away from them subsidising commercial users.
There are still quality concerns surrounding the water in Bombala and Delegate – with one reader remarking the LGNSW award must have been an April Fool’s joke.
Another Bombala Times reader, Teresa Lavin-Cave, also thought the award was “puzzling”.
“After much deliberation we decided to have a plumber install a full house water filtration system at great expense to us back in March this year,” Ms Lavin-Cave said.
“This was due to the unsavoury water quality in Bombala, and just to be able to avoid skin irritations due to poor quality of water.
“It was also a way of providing protection to our hot water system, washing machine and dishwasher as well as the obvious need of water for our consumption and for use with cooking .
“Our filtration system has two huge cartridges. One which should have a life of 8-12 months and a carbon filter with a 12-18 month life before needing to be replaced.
“However, after only eight weeks we found that we had to already replace one of the filters as it was so clogged up with muck that we found brown murky stuff floating in the bottom of our water bottles that we had filled the previous night.
“Our town water pipes had recently been flushed so this should not have happened.
“We would like someone explain to us why the filters haven’t lasted as they should,” she asked.
Mr Adhikari said while he had not received any recent complaints, quality issues were a remnant of ageing infrastructure and a history of lacklustre maintenance.
“We have worked so hard and spent quite a lot of time trying to improve the water quality in Bombala and Delegate. After amalgamating and realising the issues we were very proactive, going in straight away to clean the reservoir and conducting air scouring.
“There are still some older problems – the filter media over the years had not been maintained properly so we’ve changed that as well.
“But it’s an old system that needs either refurbishment, or replacement,” he said.
To that end, the council is going ahead with calling for an independent feasibility study and concept design.
In March, Deputy Premier John Barilaro committed $15million towards “resolving the problems” at the Bombala treatment plant.
Mr Adhikari said it was “a bit of a stalemate for now” because while the council knows the money is there, to be judicious in its process SMRC will go to the EOI process to see what options are available before spending.
The call for expressions of interest is expected to be released later this week, with the option study’s estimated price tag of $200,000 covered by the state government.