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Sydney drinking water reconnected to Warragamba Dam after contamination fears from fire and floods

By Kevin Nguyen, Saturday February 15, 2020 - 19:25 EDT
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Warragamba Dam stores drinking water for 80 per cent of Greater Sydney. - ABC

Authorities have reconnected drinking water in Greater Sydney to Warragamba Dam after it was cut off due to bushfire contamination caused by last week's flooding.

Water NSW made a decision earlier this week to stop using Warragamba Dam as a water source due to a torrent of fire and flood debris which ran into the catchment.

For days, Sydney and its outer suburbs were drawing their drinking water from Prospect Reservoir.

Last week, a torrential downpour, which caused flash flooding and power outages across NSW, filled the dam's .

Sediment, ash and debris from 320,000 hectares of burnt bushland — almost the entire perimeter of the dam — .

Water NSW said Warragamba Dam was being returned to "being the main source of untreated water supply to Sydney as of this weekend".

"Ongoing monitoring results confirmed confidence in the quality of water available from Warragamba," a spokesperson said.

Water NSW chief, David Harris, said an incident response team was established and it was working with Sydney Water and NSW Health to develop monitoring and contingency plans.

"Raw water quality at Warragamba is improving, however, more inflows may cause further deterioration in water quality at the dam wall," he said.

He said a "range of precautionary measures on-site" were taken, including deployment of additional floating booms to capture silt and ash from bushfires.

Western Sydney University water expert, Ian Wright, said there "must have been sufficient concern to stop supply" but he could not see any "adverse effects" from the decision.

"The real question, I guess, is how long the Warragamba [would have] remained switch off," Dr Wright said.

"The good thing is that the other catchment dams were overflowing from the rains [which] have not had bushfires near their catchments."

Last week's rainfall saw the .

"Combined they make up about 20 per cent of Sydney's water supply so we can last a long time — months, possibly even a year."

Water NSW spokesperson Tony Webber said there was no visible impact to Sydney's drinking supply and water was being drawn from Prospect Reservoir because it was the best quality available.

"It is important to note that this issue only concerns untreated water in dam storages at the beginning of the supply chain and has no impact on the quality of treated water," Mr Webber said.

Level two water restrictions remain in place in Sydney.


© ABC 2020

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