THE Chairman of Shoalhaven River Alliance and Greens candidate for the federal seat of Gilmore, Terry Barratt has first-hand knowledge of the Welcome Reef Dam proposal and campaigned strongly against its construction back in the 1990s.
Mr Barratt was working for the then Sydney Water when the proposal for Welcome Reef again raised its head.
That was before the Sydney Catchment Authority was established.
“I was aware work was being done and looked into it more thoroughly with the Australian Conservation Foundation and we actively campaigned against the dam,” he said.
“At the time we became aware of specific rainfall data for the area that weather patterns had changed and it was not a viable proposition.
“Sydney Water was also concerned about the shallowness of the proposed dam.
“It was a big dam but it was shallow and they were worried about evaporation from it and as it was so shallow the temperatures in the water would be high which could lead to algal blooms.
“One figure we had at the time was with the current weather patterns it would take 10 years to fill once the dam had been finished.
“There were so many things against it, it just didn’t make sense.”
He said he was surprised by the opposition’s leaked discussion paper referring to the construction of 100 extra dams including Welcome Reef.
“I was bowled over when the ABC rang me regarding it,” he said.
“I think it is a broad list of sites that have probably been suggested in the past.
“A lot of work has been done on Welcome Reef over the years and it was an integral part of the Shoalhaven scheme but it was abandoned.
“The idea was to release water from Welcome Reef and let it run down the Shoalhaven River to Tallowa then over through the Valley to Fitzroy Falls to be used in the Sydney area.
“The cost to pump it from the Valley into Fitzroy Falls was significant and then there was also the problem of significant evaporation as it ran down the river.
“At another stage there was talk of pump from Welcome Reef overland into the Wollondilly River at Goulburn and then into Sydney’s Warrangamba Dam.
“It is totally uneconomic to store water so far away and then pump it in – if they build dams they need to use that water locally.
“Welcome Reef has always been about getting Sydney more water, allowing it to grow and as the population grew they needed to quench its thirst.
“Sydney needs to learn to live by its own supply and that is Warragamaba, which has an extensive catchment area and if they can’t live with that they are either getting too big or too thirsty.”