Lood Mitigation For Southeast Queensland Starts Here

Today Tamworth is cut into two by floodwaters from falls of over 150mm rain. Storms are predicted for southeast Queensland and the Northern Rivers of NSW, and southeast Queensland continues to mop up and count the cost of flood damage caused by two nights of rain. NSW State Emergency service’s Namoi division controller Kathleen Caine reports help is needed for “People stranded across causeways, people washed off causeways, people in trees, people trapped in vehicles,”

Citizens are wondering why flood mitigation measures failed to protect their homes and businesses.
Flooding, described by the Courier Mail as “the worst since 1974” have left highways impassable and railway lines have been cut. Severe water restrictions are still in place, affecting the region’s food growers and economy. There are no plans to alter the 150l personal daily allocation of water, because the now drenched southeast of Queensland is still officially in drought.

How did it come to this? Poor planning policy and inadequate infrastructure and design lie at the heart of this crisis. Flood mitigation through stormwater and rainwater harvesting are the key, capturing rain for reuse.

By applying simple, cost effective stormwater harvesting infrastructure citywide, from major catchments to new housing subdivisions and by retrofitting residential properties, citizens this morning would be waking to an ordinary working day. Instead southeast Queensland is in crisis, thanks to poor planning and outdated infrastructure.

Sufficient rain has fallen during the past week to end southeast Queensland’s water crisis, making proposed infrastructure projects, such as Traveston Crossing Dam, redundant. The region’s dam catchments are in some of our driest locations yet even the 2007 senate enquiry into Traveston failed to investigate the potential benefits of stormwater harvesting advocated by Queensland Conservation.

This month marks the fifth anniversary of ‘Bellis’, Brisbane’s sustainable house and garden. Simple, cheap, effective stormwater and rainwater harvesting techniques mean that heavier, more intense falls of rain than those experienced over the past week are soaked up by the garden and stored in a rainwater tank.

In the past five years of unprecedented drought this 813 sq m property has harvested 3.3 megalitres of rain and stormwater. Until the third storm of the week no stormwater left ‘Bellis’, so the property has not added to regional flooding woes. Last night’s storm delivered 86mm of rain and hail – that’s 69,918 litres – of which ca 2,000 litres gradually seeped off site. Meanwhile street and garden stormwater caused Wynnum Creek to burst its banks, flooding Collina Street.

Capturing stormwater where it falls reliably, protecting lives and livelihoods, and drought proofing the region at the same time seem worthy goals. If one property, like ‘Bellis’ can cope with floods and droughts, will southeast Queensland learn to adapt to the 21st century?

For further information on how to drought and flood proof a domestic property yourself, click on this Bellis link.

Jerry Coleby-Williams
Executive Member, Queensland Conservation
29th November 2008