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Water quality

Constant water quality testing and monitoring ensures that the Port Macquarie-Hastings water supplies meet Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.  Town Water Supply is pumped from the Hastings River at Koree Island and is stored in the Port Macquarie and Cowarra Off-Creek Storage Dams. 

The flow and water quality in the Hastings River is monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  If water quality drops, pumping is automatically switched off, ensuring only clean and pure water is stored in our dams.

The Comboyne, Long Flat and Telegraph Point Village Water Supplies are pumped from the Thone, Hastings and Wilson Rivers respectively.  All three villages have new Water Treatment Plants using microfiltration to produce the highest quality drinking water.

Once river levels are sufficient for pumping, water quality must be met before pumping to the dam can commence. After rain events, the amount of sediment and turbidity in the river can create ‘dirty‘ water, which, if sent to our dams, could deteriorate our water quality (taste and odour) to a point where we could not use the dams to supply water to the community.

Both Village and Town water is continually monitored as it makes it way from the dams and reservoirs to homes and businesses around the Hastings.  There are more than 50 monitoring taps and 130 samples taken and tested every month.  Council’s Environmental Testing Laboratory regularly tests the water quality in the rivers and creeks that flow into the Hastings River. 

Council's Supervisory Control Data and Acquisition System (SCADA) is programmed to consider water quality, river level, dam level and river water extraction licensing conditions.  When the SCADA system determines that the river is too low, or the water is not good enough to drink, the system automatically switches off the pumps and notifies Council operational staff.  The water flow in the river is also measured, and the data automatically sent to the SCADA system.

Water Hardness

The ‘hardness’ of water is something that is of interest when it comes to new appliances.  Often new washing machines or dishwashers have specific settings for various levels of water hardness.  As a guide, water with less than 60mg/litre is considered ‘soft’, up to 200mg/litre is ‘good quality’, between 200-500mg/litre is considered ‘hard’, and more than 500mg/litre is ‘very hard’.

Port Macquarie-Hastings water supply has a target hardness of 40 - 60mg/litres, and is therefore considered ‘soft’.

Guidelines for Water Safety

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) produces the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) to provide advice to water suppliers.  The Guidelines recommend safe limits for various compounds found in drinking water, including blue-green algae toxins.  

Alert Levels Framework (ALF) for Drinking Water is also available to provide advice to water suppliers in the monitoring and management of the development of potentially toxic blue-green algae blooms in the water supply.

Water Quality - Frequently Asked Questions

The water tastes and smells different.  What has caused this?

Seasonal conditions may have resulted in an expected increase in algal activity in both Port Macquarie and Cowarra Dams.   Increased numbers are likely to form when water is relatively still, nutrients are present (particularly nitrogen and phosphorus) and when temperatures remain warm.

Water quality testing has identified the presence of the compounds geosmin and methylisoborneol (MIB) as a result of this increased algal activity. These compounds produce an earthy and/or musty taste and odour in the water and only need to be present at extremely low levels to affect water quality (10 nanograms/litre which is equivalent to one drop in a household swimming pool).

Are there any health risks?

These naturally occurring compounds are non-toxic and do not represent any public health risks.  The presence of these taste and odour compounds result primarily in aesthetic water quality issues.  Council adheres to the advice set in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines regarding drinking water quality.

What is Council doing?

Council continues to manage nutrient levels in both Port Macquarie and Cowarra Dams to limit algal growth.  Ongoing water quality monitoring ensures public health is protected at all times.  

Water from the Hastings River and our stored drinking water is regularly tested at stations located throughout the catchment to ensure quality is maintained, and appropriate steps are taken when environmental and seasonal factors cause minor imbalances.

For more information, contact Council’s Customer Service Centre on (02) 6581 8111 or email council@pmhc.nsw.gov.au. 

 

This page was last updated on: 07 May 2019