A History of the Wyndham Water Scheme
Contributed by Bernie Cornell
Wyndham lies about half an hour from the Merimbula/Pambula coast and is less than three hours from the Snowfields. The small village is situated in the hills near the head of Mataganah & Myrtle Creeks in the Towamba Valley catchment. The farmland here is surrounded by South East Forests National Parks and State Forests, and the town straddles the road that is the main East-West route over Mount Darragh, from the coast to Bombala.
The nearby 'Jingera Rock' is a spectacular and high rocky outcrop, that rises above the surrounding countryside with many changing colours. Towards the summit of Mt. Darragh, a forest of tree ferns and flowering natural vegetation greets every traveler to the Monaro Tableland.
First surveyed in 1856, Wyndham grew into a thriving village by the 1880’s, when the main occupation of its people centred on the dairy industry, mining and on forest work like sleeper cutting, wattle bark stripping and timber for building and fencing.
With the passing of the years the village changed its character. The butter factories closed, modern transport and sealed roads came about, farms were subdivided and work was sought in the nearby larger towns.
Many families have occupied smaller acres seeking a more relaxed life free of the stresses of city life, whilst at the same time minds turned to creating ventures which are designed to improve living conditions.
In 1984 such an occasion arose when the supply of water proved a difficulty in the village. Most homes relied on tank water, while a few pumped water from the Mataganah Creek which ran close to the northern boundary of the village.
About 2.5km away ran the Myrtle Creek which has better quality water and is fairly free of minerals. Both creeks have their source in the nearby mountains, and both empty into the Towamba River. The rainfall in the area is about 850 mm and severe droughts are rare.
Foremost amongst those who were anxious for a guaranteed water supply were the hotel-keeper Bill Pearce, the school principal, Steve Goodchild and the Bega Valley Shire Council, needing water for public places. The school enrolment was 56 and water for toilet and ablution facilities was pumped from Mataganah Ck.
Living close to Myrtle Creek was David Herbert, a retired water engineer who was active in the Wyndham Progress Association and was familiar with the flow of the creek and the quality of the water. He conceived the idea of supplying the village with water from that creek.
The distance from the village and the problem of easements over private land for the pipeline deterred much local support for his idea but his persistence finally paid off, with approval gained for a survey of the local people to gauge support for the idea.
A Progress Association meeting was held in 1984 of all townspeople. This helped to reach the decision that if all households participated in a water scheme it would cost between $200 to $600 each. Around 24 households agreed to participate and each paid $50 for an engineering study to be carried out by David Herbert.
The study began in October of 1984 and by December David Herbert had presented his findings. These included a funding proposal which depended on voluntary labour, a charge of $500 for each member of the scheme to buy materials, plus a bank loan.
The study determined and costed the water requirements, pump, motor, pipeline and reservoir sizes and location and set out the village distribution system, points of supply etc.
Negotiations were needed with several government departments, including NSW Water Resources Commission, which gave permission for a pump on Myrtle Creek. The Lands Department authorised a pipeline to be laid from the creek to the reservoirs 2.2Km away, near the cemetery. The Shire Council allowed the location of a pump beside the road at the Honeysuckle Bridge over Myrtle Creek.
The location of the reservoirs needed to be sufficiently high above the village to provide a gravity supply at a satisfactory pressure.
When all the requirements had been met, an application was made to the local Federal Member of Parliament for a grant of money from the Community Employment Program and also to its Regional Director, Graham Gall. It was estimated that the cost would amount to $70,000.
Following these efforts, the C.E.P. made available $46,500, Westpac Bank made a loan of $10,000, the Dept. of Education offered $5600 as did the Bega Shire Council, leaving a balance which was to be made up by members of the Scheme.
The town reservoirs under construction
The C.E.P. Grant enabled the seven unemployed men and women, two of them as leading hands and the others as labourers. Bill Pearce obtained a trench digger for digging the pipe-lines which were cleared of stumps and vegetation with a bulldozer driven at no cost by Barry Collins who also did the excavation work for the reservoir tanks.
The scheme was completed on schedule in May 1986 and the working group celebrated at the Robbie Burns Hotel with Federal MP Jim Snow and Westpac manager, Jim Dodd. It remained then for the Illawarra County Council to connect the power for the pumping to begin.
The scheme was operated by the Progress Association until 1990 when the Wyndham Community Water Users was incorporated and took over the running of the scheme.
The opening of the Wyndham Water Scheme in 1986 - From left, Westpac manager Jim Dodd, Project Engineer David Herbert, John Gill, Publican Bill pierce, Wyndham School Principal Steve Goodchild, Andew Wright, Sue Pearce, Federal member Jim Snow, Christine Stewart, Meg Whitby, Phil Helmers
From Left: Jim Snow, John Gill, Sue Pearce, Jim Dodd, Phil Helmers & Bill Pearce with trencher
With the scheme in operation, it became necessary to pay attention to compliance with health regulations and issues of pump maintenance, filtration issues, storage size, disinfection and other maintenance matters became more important. System operation was entirely manual and it became clear that pump automation based on tank water levels was needed.
Fluctuating water pressures at connections on the rising-main was causing, failures, leaks and other issues, and this led to the pumping system being redesigned, with. The ultra-violet disinfection system was upgraded and the lack of filtration on the creek caused high pump maintenance and was addressed in time.
A groundwater bore was installed near the pump station in 2004 to augment the creek supply. In 1997 water meters were installed at all members connections to monitor leaks and in 2005 a water-usage charge of $1.50/kL was introduced, with a quarterly access subscription of $17.50.
An automated backup power system for the UV disinfection units, that runs during outages was installed. Fire hydrants and overhead fire-truck filling stations were also installed and manual back-washed sand-filter was installed at the pump-station in 2009. Floods in 2011 damaged the creek intake works, which led to the bore being used for a 9 month period, until the bore-pump failed due to the high iron-levels. The bore was abandoned until 2014, when it was rehabilitated and a new pump installed, along with an effective (and expensive) iron removal filter.
Reservoir storage capacity is now at 650kL, which allows about 3 weeks supply. By 2014, a sand filter and an activated carbon filter, including automated daily backwashing was installed.
More recently, new NSW Government regulations for public water supplies, led to the compilation and adoption of a Quality Assurance Program for the scheme, documenting all equipment, guidelines and procedures.
By 2019 the scheme had been in operation for 33 years, now using water from both creek (80%) and bore (20%), with the bore water’s iron content now filtered out. Maintenance of pipelines and equipment, meter reading, daily monitoring of operation and clerical work is carried out by the Association members. Bob Hunt has, for many years, been in attendance to monitor the operation and meet any emergency which arises. His work is invaluable and the villagers are fortunate that he is available.
In 2020 membership is around 72, with 100 membership units held, including 10 units each for the primary school and the Bega Valley Shire Council. New connections are charged a $5500 capital contribution. Quarterly membership fees are $50 (with a $25 pay-on-time discount) and the water-usage charge is $2.00/kL.
The council samples the water every fortnight for bacterial testing and every 6 months for chemical analysis. If a single e-Coli bacteria is detected in a bacterial sample, the water-supply is required to have chlorine disinfectant added, however this has not been necessary for the past several years, following the strengthening of maintenance routines.
The Wyndham water-supply supports around 150 people in and around the town, and many others who use village facilities, like the school, the hall, the public toilets, the sport and recreation areas and especially the overhead fillers, for firefighting. All depends on the industrious group of people who have given their time and efforts over a long period of time. It can be described as a unique community effort destined to last while there is water available.
Wyndham Water Scheme history of improvements:
WCWU became an incorporated association.
A functioning water supply system was in place, consisting of a 7kw multi-stage pump, drawing creek-water directly from spears buried in the sand bed.
Water was pumped into two 80kL concrete reservoirs, 2.3 km distant at 80 metres higher in elevation, 40 metres above the village.
Reservoir water flowed by gravity to the reticulation network, through 2 small ultra-violet disinfection units, housed in a concrete block shed on Oak Street.
The UV disinfection units were installed due to Health Department disinfection requirements for public water supplies and the members rejection of chemical additives.
The high pump-rate of 8kL per hour and the long 2.3Km, 50mm pipe-line, caused high dynamic pumping pressures, leading to over-pressure issues for connections along the pump-line.
An electronic pump control unit was specified by David Herbert and installed, but a required tank-level monitoring tube to the tanks was unfortunately had not been installed.
Attending and manually switching the pump was therefore necessary and so overflowing or empty tanks, were common occurrences.
Without filtration, sand and debris from the creek caused high pump maintenance issues and it was also problematic for consumers, with objects such as small snails sometimes coming out of taps.
A third concrete tank was added (105 K), bringing total storage to 265 kL.
A homemade wireless telemetry system was installed to control the pump based on tank levels.
Three fire hydrants were installed in the village.
Agreements for “easements for water supply”with landholders was actively sought over the many parcels of private land through which pipelines had been run.
A plot of land in the village (with a large storage shed) was purchased, with the main purpose of having land that could be the legal beneficiary of all of the the easements.
As at 2020, only one easement remains to be secured, which is for a pipeline servicing a single connection .
A gravity-fed supply augmentation from Myrtle Mountain was approved and as part of this project, a 100 mm water main was laid up the main street,as far as the old police station.
The gravity feed project was eventually abandoned due to ongoing lack of flow evident at the source..
A redesigned pumping system was installed, with a single stage pump, able to handle sand, drawing water from a sump in the creek, to fill a 20kL concrete tank on the old road level.
A flood-free pump house was built for a new multi stage pump, now fed by positively pressurised water, free of sand.
The high pump maintenance and pump priming issues were now gone.
Plumbing leaks at member’s connections were an ongoing problem and water meters were purchased and installed at each connection point, in an effort to quantify the issue.
Resistance to having water-meters was addressed by making clear that it was for management purposes only.
The dual 25mm UV disinfection units were upgraded to a larger 50mm unit, with the old system kept in place for backup.
Upgraded wireless pump-control telemetry was installed to provide monitoring and recording of pumping & tank-levels.
A bore was installed near the pump station and a fourth tank (105kL) was installed, taking the total storage to 370kL.
A tanker fill-station was installed near the cemetery, on the pump line.
Members water-usage data from the meters installed in 1997, showed that there were large inequalities in members usage.
Changing the rating system, from a flat rate to one based on actual metered water-usage, became a controversial issue, that was resolved by the holding of a referendum, giving all members the chance to vote on the issue by mail.
The referendum result was that 75% of members voted, with a result of 2 to 1 in favour introducing user-pays rating.
A water-usage rate of $1.50 per kL was implemented, with a membership subscription of $17.50 per quarter.
The records show that after bringing in a water usage charge, there was an overall reduction of 28% in usage.
A new 800m long 50mm pipeline was installed to provide treated and constant-pressure water to those members who were previously connected to the rising main (the back line).
A high-flow overhead filler, designed for fast-filling water-tankers, was installed on the track up to the tanks, .
A manual back-wash sand filter was installed at the pump-station.
The village UV disinfection unit was replaced with a larger capacity unit, with the old unit being installed at the pump station to disinfect the raw creek-water at the source.
A big flood in March took out the creek intake infrastructure.
The back up bore was used for 9 months, which allowed the rebuilding of the creek intake to take place.
Consecutive floods and sustained turbid creek-water caused the bore to be used again.
Hardness of the bore water decreased to within Australian standards but the iron (rust) levels got worse and eventually blew up the bore pump, which led to the bore being abandoned.
An LPG generator powered uninterruptible power supply was designed, built and installed at the UV shed in order to ensure effective disinfection during power outages.
A pay on time rates discount was introduced, to encourage members to pay early and reduce admin work.
Two more concrete tanks were installed (140kL each), bringing total storage to 650kL or about three weeks supply.
The 7kw 8kL per hour pump was replaced with a smaller 2.2kw 5kL/hour pump, resulting in lower pumping pressures and costs.
The change to user-pays rates and the subsequent attention to leaks had allowed pumping rates to be greatly reduced.
A sand filter, and an activated-carbon filter, each with automated daily back-wash were installed at the pump-station, along with a UV disinfection unit n the creek-pump.
A quality Assurance Program was adopted to comply with new legislation
The bore was rehabilitated and a new pump installed, with $22,000 being spent on an effective new iron filtration unit.
Information for this article was sourced from:
Wyndham Progress Association records
My thanks for the help provided.
B. Cornell 11-11-2019.