VIDEO | Curlewis residents impacted by poor water

Curlewis residents Gary Dunkley and Peter Louis are no strangers to the impacts of the poor quality water in the village.
Curlewis residents Gary Dunkley and Peter Louis are no strangers to the impacts of the poor quality water in the village.

The announcement of $2.6 million in funding for the Curlewis Pipeline Project has created some questions for local residents.

The small town is heavily impacted by its poor water quality, and while many welcome the news that the pipeline will deliver good quality water, there are concerns about whether it will cost residents. 

Long-time Curlewis resident Gary Dunkley, says locals are concerned about the impact of the proposed pipeline on water rates.

Peter Louis shares the problems he has at the Commercial Hotel.

A spokesperson from Gunnedah Shire Council said following the pipeline project, there would be “no increase in water charges other than the usual CPI indexing”.

The spokesperson also said a Water Equalisation Proposal was adopted in June, which aimed to create a “fairer system”.

“This involved equalising availability and usage charges that Gunnedah and village residents paid for water and waste water services – delivering significantly better value to customers in the villages,” the spokesperson said.

Stains on kitchen knives from the water residue.

Stains on kitchen knives from the water residue.

Currently, most residents are using rain water or bottled water because the quality of the water is so bad. 

Mr Dunkley said when the water was first turned on in 1972, it was fine to drink but it has “gradually deteriorated”. 

“My personal thoughts are that the water hasn’t been very good quality for about 15 years so any improvement in giving us better quality is always good,” he said.

As a plumber, Mr Dunkley sees first-hand the impacts of the high amount of calcium in the water.

“The life of a hot water system often doesn’t last the warranty period,” he said.

Mr Dunkley said he has installed a lot of water softeners around the village but they don’t work very well. Even washing a car can be problematic because the water leaves a white film.

Curlewis resident Tony Rankmore says he won't drink the town water and only uses rain water.

Curlewis resident Tony Rankmore says he won't drink the town water and only uses rain water.

Fellow resident Tony Rankmore has lived in Curlewis since 1970, and said even 15 years ago, the water was not fit for humans.

“My mother, 15 years ago, she had an independent water survey done and back then it came back as not fit for human consumption,” he said.

“At the end of the day, any water is better than no water but the water in Curlewis is bad, and it’s going to get worse.”

Mr Rankmore said he was fortunate to have rainwater tanks but not everyone was that lucky.

“If you haven’t got access to a water tank or can’t purchase one, you’re left with no option but to drink it. Or buy bottled water, which to me is nearly as dear as petrol,” he said.

“I run rain water through the whole house. If I run the town water through my evaporative air-conditioner, I can get two years maximum out of it. Almost every year, I’ve got to replace the vats; the calcium makes them ineffective.

​”The cost of replacing vats is a bit expensive, so we’re better off just running the rain water through those because I can probably get about 10 years out of rainwater.

“An evaporative air-conditioner in summer in Curlewis will probably use 15,000-20,000 gallons of water in about five months.”

Calcium build-up on a pipe.

Calcium build-up on a pipe.

At the Commercial Hotel, publican Peter Louis, battles daily with the impacts of the water.

He spends almost $4000 a year on descaler to try and keep the dishwasher and steriliser working. 

“It costs a fortune but it eats all the rubbish," he said.

“If you don’t use the descaler to keep [the steriliser] clean, it’d be buggered.”

The hotel’s previous steriliser only lasted four years before he had to replace it recently.

“The calcium had built up that much in the boiler tank in the bottom that it wasn’t working properly,” he said.

A request for water at the bar is also a cost to the hotel.

“If someone comes in here and asks for a glass of water, I’ve got to be able to supply it and it’s got to be good water,” Mr Louis said.

“You’ve got to give them bottled water to give them water.

“No way you’d give them water out of the tap.”

Pipeline long time coming

IF you ask any long-time Curlewis resident, they’ll tell you their water woes first started about 15 years ago.

There are many anecdotal horror stories – dishwashers lasting only three years when they should be lasting 10, cars coated with a thin crust of calcium after being washed, the water exacerbating eczema in children.

Parkes MP Mark Coulton promised the town’s water problems will be over within 18 months.

Gunnedah Shire Council plans to break ground within the next 12 weeks on the 15.8km gravity fed pipeline, which will provide quality water to 600 residents and businesses in Curlewis.

In 2011, council hired consultants to prepare a business case addressing both the water quality and supply at Curlewis.

Council considered other options, such as a reverse osmosis water treatment plant, searching for better quality groundwater supplies in the area and the use of individual household tanks for drinking water. However, the pipeline was deemed the best solution and has an expected project life of 80 to 100 years.

- Jamieson Murphy