Improving the Network – SunWater’s preparedness for future weather events

Jason Venables - SunWater , 15 November, 2018

SunWater is a bulk water infrastructure developer and manager playing a key role in Australia’s water industry, owning and managing around $13 billion in water infrastructure assets and supplying approximately 40% of all water used commercially in Queensland.

As these assets are spread as far north as Mareeba, west to Mount Isa and to the south to St George and Goondiwindi, they are frequently exposed to extreme weather events such as very high rainfall and tropical cyclones (TC). Two such events in the past 3 years were TC Marcia in 2015 and TC Debbie in 2017.

SunWater is responsible for 23 Emergency Action Plans (EAP) in the event of spillway releases from all referable dams. When an EAP is activated, relevant stakeholders such as Queensland Emergency Services, local councils and immediate downstream residences are notified.

For the past 2 years, SunWater has been actively improving its preparedness for future extreme weather events by, to name just a few:

  • Establishing an Operations Centre, manned 365 days per year
  • Increasing the gauging station and rain gauge network
  • Improving the time series data flow – imports and exports
  • Improving the hydrology modelling tools, and
  • The installation of remote cameras at all dams

These improvements rely on SunWater’s hydrographic sites and data network from 23 dams, 32 weirs, 52 streams gauging stations and several stand-alone rain gauges; as well as the State hydrographic and rain gauge network from DNRME, BOM and local councils.

In this paper I will discuss further detail on such things as how this improvement program came about, the site selection process for new sites, improvements in time series data flow and how some of these improvements were utilised during a real-time event.