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Lightning strike affecting Lake Burrendong’s cold water pollution curtain

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Image: Matt Hansen

AFTER winning major awards for design and innovation, the cold water pollution curtain that was fitted to Lake Burrendong has hit a snag according to a report by Matt Hansen in the Daily Liberal.

Struck by lightning over a year ago, the curtain remains unable to work at optimum capacity, with the system currently partially off line and only able to be manually operated due to malfunctioning automatic winches.

Dubbo Catches asked Water NSW about the troubles being experienced with the project, with a spokesperson stating that “The Burrendong temperature control curtain was struck by lightning in 2015.” 

Burrendong has now raced to around 60 per cent of capacity, with good inflows still pouring in from across the saturated catchment, and strong flows roaring in from the Macquarie and Turon rivers.

At the time of reply from WaterNSW, Burrendong was sitting at a concerning 15 per cent, with a spokesperson stating that “… at current low-storage levels water temperature is consistent across the storage profile and operation of the curtain is not required. Water NSW is working to restore automatic function to the curtain.”

Driving rains have seen the depths of the dam increase dramatically after massive inflows, no doubt increasing the potential for cold water flows to be released down the river this spring if the 3.4 million dollar curtain is not working at its optimum capacity.

Cold water pollution can occur when cold water from the bottom of a dam is released into the river, which can have a negative impact on native fish species. WaterNSW is working to mitigate the effects of cold water pollution as part of its ongoing efforts to reduce environmental impacts of operations.

The project involved construction of a floating-curtain temperature control structure around the intake tower at Burrendong Dam. The flexible structure sits just below the water level to allow warmer surface water to be released downstream through the outlet valve.

The curtain can move up and down with the water level via a chain and pulley mechanism to function regardless of the water level of the dam. By restoring temperatures in the river the curtain is set to improve the ecology of the river which is temperature dependent.

Being a project of such importance, and even being touted as a world first in thermal pollution innovation, no doubt scientists from across the world, environmentalists, and river users along the Macquarie River will be watching closely in the hope the project is successful. 

Native fish will be moving to spawn as the months grow warmer, with natural flow temperatures critical in ensuring successful breeding events, after being depleted by between 70 to 90 per cent since European settlement.

More information on this subject can be found here.

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