The Haughton Pipeline Project, located in Townsville and with an estimated overall cost of $474 million, began in 2019 with the goal of increasing water security for the region through supporting Townsville’s Ross River Dam catchment. Working through the pandemic to complete the first stage of works, the project’s challenging second stage is set to begin in the coming year, after a long and dedicated journey from Council and government to create a drought-proof community.

The Haughton Pipeline Project is one of North Queensland’s most significant water infrastructure projects to date, recently reaching a major milestone with Townsville City Council awarding a $51 million contract to IPLEX to supply the pipeline for stage two of the project.

The project’s goal is to create water security for the region’s future, and support Townsville’s Ross River Dam catchment, with the massive initiative being split into two construction stages.

Stage one, now completed, saw the installation of a pipeline from the Haughton pump station to the Ross River Dam, while stage two will extend the pipeline from the Haughton River to the Burdekin River near Clare.

Constructing the pipeline delivers on the recommendations made by the Townsville Water Security Taskforce’s final report to build a pipeline between the Ross River Dam and the Burdekin River near Clare, to enable the dam water levels to be managed and deliver water security to the City in times of drought.

Once complete, more than 60km of 1.8m diameter pipeline will help to supply raw water from the Burdekin River to the Dam during prolonged drought – it will also deliver 273MLand ultimately  364ML of water to the dam each day to ensure residents have access to water.

Stage one was funded by the Queensland Government, which provided $215 million to Townsville City Council to carry out the initial works.

Currently, stage two of the project will cost an estimated $274 million, with the Queensland Government providing $195 million and the additional coming from Council.

Water security for a growing region

Townsville City Council anticipates the region’s population is expected to increase from about 200,000 to more than 300,000 residents by 2050, so the pipeline is a crucial initiative for the region and will help secure water for the City as it grows.

Townsville City Council Mayor, Jenny Hill, said the pipeline was critical to ensuring water security for one of the fastest-growing regions in Australia.

“More and more people want to take advantage of the North Queensland lifestyle and are moving to Townsville,” Mayor Hill said.

“More than five years ago, Council identified the need for long-term water security to help support a growing population, and we have pushed hard to make this project a reality.”

Construction of stage one started in 2017 and finished in early 2020, with more than 36km of 1.8m diameter pipeline River Dam.

Water and Waste Committee chairperson Russ Cook said contractors laid down more than 2760 individual lengths of 1.8m diameter pipe.

“More than 1000 workers logged more than 500,000 work hours building the pipeline during stage one,” Cr Cook said.

“One of the big takeaways from the project was seeing that local businesses had the capability to work on a significant initiative like this.

“About 200 local businesses were involved directly or indirectly in stage one, and this local capability gives us real confidence in delivering stage two of this vital water infrastructure project.”

Pushing to the finish line

Mayor Hill said that the next pipeline stage is a more complicated process than the first.

“Stage one was built mostly within existing easements and land corridors, taking away some of the complexities of getting the project built,” Mayor Hill said.

“Stage two is a greenfield site and has required a lot of consultation between government, landowners and Traditional Owner groups to secure a pipeline alignment.

“Part of the initial works have involved seeking land access agreements, negotiating and signing a Cultural Heritage Management Agreement with the Bindal Traditional Owners, conducting bore drilling, ground survey and environmental surveys, establishing agreements with major material and equipment suppliers and getting specialist services for probity, land valuation, cultural heritage, native title, contracts, quantity surveying and design review.

“This is a four year project for Townsville and we are on track to meeting the major milestones. “The awarding of the tender for the supply of pipe is an exciting step in bringing this project closer to starting.

“It’s great for the community and the City to see progress made on this vital piece of water infrastructure.

“Townsville is situated in the dry tropics, and our region is one of the driest in Queensland. Our rainfall is unpredictable and sometimes falls outside of dam catchment areas.

“This pipeline will give the City the assurances it needs to continue growing for decades to come.”

Boosting employment and investment

Mayor Hill also said that the project aims to give confidence to businesses looking to invest in Townsville that there is a reliable water supply, while helping them grow and employ more people.

“The pipeline will give residents the assurances to continue building their lives in Townsville,” Mayor Hill said.

Cr Cook said the project is part of Council’s three-point water security strategy to support the City’s future growth and provide a secure alternative water supply during prolonged droughts.

“Townsville is a dry tropical city, yet locals use, on average, 600L of water per person per day, more than double the consumption used by people living in most major capital cities,” Cr Cook said.

“This pipeline and projects like the two new water clarifiers at the Douglas Water Treatment Plant and the pipeline duplication from the Ross River Dam to the Douglas Water Treatment Plant are vital to supporting Townsville’s growth.

“But this major infrastructure needs to be supported by a community who understand the importance of conservation behaviours and use this precious resource wisely.”

Construction of the Haughton Pipeline Project stage two is set to start in mid-2023, with a planned completion date of December 2024.

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