Frequently Asked Questions

Current Water Situation

What are the roles of the Mount Isa Water Board and Mount Isa City Council in the supply of water to the city?

The Mount Isa Water Board is responsible for supplying bulk treated water to Mount Isa City Council. The Board conducts extensive water quality tests to ensure the water meets Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

Once the Mount Isa Water Board has provided the water to Mount Isa City Council, the Council is responsible for the supply of water to Mount Isa residents through its extensive pipe network. Mount Isa City Council is also responsible for conducting further chlorination and testing of the water prior to its distribution to residents.

Is Mount Isa’s water safe to drink?

Yes. Mount Isa’s water is safe. The Mount Isa Water Board conducts more than 10,000 water-quality tests per year to ensure the water meets Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

Why do we have a filtration system? What happened to Clear Water Lagoon?

In late 2013, a significant blue-green algae bloom caused Clear Water Lagoon’s natural filtration process to fail. This resulted in the water in the lagoon being unsuitable for Mount Isa Water Board to supply to Mount Isa City Council for use by the Mount Isa community without subsequent filtration. As there was no likelihood that the algae bloom could be resolved within a suitable timeframe, the Mount Isa Water Board urgently sourced a filtration system as an interim measure to ensure the continued supply of clean water to Mount Isa City Council.

The blue-green algae bloom in Clear Water Lagoon grow to be potentially the largest ever recorded in a Queensland water supply system. Levels of blue-green algae have risen to never before seen levels of more than 6 million cells per millilitre in March 2015 — 10,000 cells per millilitre is considered normal and acceptable.

While investigations are currently being undertaken into the future of Clear Water Lagoon, the Mount Isa Water Board now considers a filtration system essential to future operations. Recent events have demonstrated that Clear Water Lagoon can no longer be relied on to the extent it has been in the past and will not be able to meet the process assurance requirements of modern drinking water standards. A permanent water filtration facility has now been established to assure Mount Isa’s drinking water quality.

How much water does Mount Isa use?

In February 2015, approximately 16.9 mega litres (or 16.9 million litres) of water is being used on average each day in Mount Isa. This equates to approximately 600 litres per person per day.

This water usage is considerably higher than the same time last year. In February 2014, approximately 11.4 mega litres (or 11.4 million litres) of water was used on average in Mount Isa each day. This equates to approximately 400 litres per person per day.

How does Mount Isa’s water usage compare to other similar-sized regional cities?

In February 2015, Mount Isa’s average daily consumption was approximately 600 litres per person per day.

Based on this figure, Mount Isa’s average daily consumption per person is more than 200% higher than Brisbane (<200 litres per person per day).

Compared with other similar-sized outback mining centres, Mount Isa’s average daily water consumption per person is 50% higher than Kalgoorlie-Boulder (400 litres per person per day) and 62% higher than Broken Hill (370 litres per person per day).

What’s being done to increase the city’s supply of clean water?

The Mount Isa Water Board has implemented a long-term solution to expand filtration capacity to a reliable average of more than 22 megalitres per day from March 2015. This will increase the amount of water that can be provided to Mount Isa City Council for local use and reduce the need for restrictions, subject to rainfall.

Why was a water levy imposed?

The levy, in place during 2014-15 financial year, was a matter for Mount Isa City Council. As per the Mount Isa Water Board’s contract with Council, the essential major expense associated with implementing the emergency leased filtration system was passed on at cost price.

As part of negotiations for new equipment in 2015, the Mount Isa Water Board has negotiated with the supplier to secure a substantial reduction in charges effective 1 February 2015 for the current filtration system. The cost was now been reduced from $250,000 per month to $10,000 per month, saving Council $1.19 million in the 2014-15 financial year which was been rebated to rate payers.

How much will the new water treatment infrastructure cost and who will pay for it?

The Mount Isa Water Board is investing $9.2 million into new, permanent micro-filtration water treatment infrastructure. This investment will be paid for by the Mount Isa Water Board from existing cash reserves, and the infrastructure will form part of the Board’s capital asset base.

What are the current water restriction levels?

Water restrictions are set by Mount Isa City Council. Level 2 water restrictions came into effect on Monday 3 May 2015. For more information, visit www.mountisa.qld.gov.au.

About the Mount Isa Water Board

Who is the Mount Isa Water Board?

The Mount Isa Water Board is a statutory entity created as a Category 1 Water Authority under the Water Act (2000) (Qld), supplying bulk water to major customers in the Mount Isa area.

Who owns the Mount Isa Water Board?

The Mount Isa Water Board is a statutory authority. It is owned by and reports to the Queensland State Government.

How is the Mount Isa Water Board managed?

The Mount Isa Water Board is governed by a Board of Directors that monitor the business and operational performance. The business is managed by a Chief Executive and staff.

Who are the Mount Isa Water Board’s customers?

The Mount Isa Water Board’s major customers are Mount Isa City Council, Mount Isa Mines, and Incitec Pivot Ltd. SunWater subsidiary, North West Queensland Water Pipeline Pty Ltd purchases electricity from Mount Isa Water Board, making them our four largest customer.

What is the Mount Isa Water Board’s main function?

The Mount Isa Water Board’s main function is to carry out bulk water-related activities for Mount Isa.

Does the Mount Isa Water Board operate as a business?

Yes. The Mount Isa Water Board is a commercialised statutory authority operating under the Water Act. Under the Water Act, it must be efficient and effective, and is required to operate as a commercially successful business. As a commercialised statutory authority, the Mount Isa Water Board is also required to pay ‘tax equivalents’ and dividends when it makes a profit.

Does the Mount Isa Water Board make a profit?

The Mount Isa Water Board has made a profit in most years and has consequently paid taxes and dividends to the State Government.

From the time the Mount Isa Water Board was commercialised in 2000 until 2011–12, all dividends and taxes were passed on by the State Government to Mount Isa City Council, amounting to $28 million poured back into the Mount Isa community over that period.

Current State Government policy is that Mount Isa City Council will receive 50% of the total dividends and taxes generated by the Mount Isa Water Board in a financial year (July to June). However, this is conditional upon the Mount Isa Water Board making a profit for the year.

Provided MIWB makes a profit, the receipt of dividends and tax by Mount Isa City Council offset a significantly proportion of the cost of water charges.

Water Supply

Who do I get my water from?

Mount Isa residential customers are supplied by Mount Isa City Council (who is supplied bulk water by the Mount Isa Water Board).

If I have a problem with my water supply who do I call?

All Mount Isa residential customers should contact Mount Isa City Council if they have water supply problems. Mount Isa City Council will contact Mount Isa Water Board if there is a bulk water supply problem.

Where does our raw water come from?

Mount Isa’s raw water is supplied from either Lake Moondarra or Lake Julius. Lake Moondarra is 13 km downstream from Mount Isa and Lake Julius is more than 60km away. In normal conditions, all water is supplied from Lake Moondarra. However, when there is a drought, water is also supplied from Lake Julius.

How does the Mount Isa Water Board supply the water?

The Mount Isa Water Board has a network of pump stations, pipelines and power distribution systems from Lake Julius to Lake Moondarra to Mount Isa. The Mount Isa Water Board supplies the major customers’ storage tanks with bulk water when the tank levels drop below a certain point.

Does Lake Julius water cost the same as Lake Moondarra water?

No. Lake Julius is much further away from Mount Isa so it costs approximately twice as much to supply water from Lake Julius compared to Lake Moondarra.

Why don’t we top up Lake Moondarra with Lake Julius water?

The Mount Isa Water Board supplies customers from Lake Julius on an as-needed basis, and as requested by its customers. As supply from Lake Julius is significantly more expensive than from Lake Moondarra it is only supplied when necessary.

How much water do we use?

Each year the Mount Isa Water Board supplies approximately 20 gigalitres of water to its major customers. This is 20,000 million litres and equivalent to 8,000 Olympic swimming pools.

Why does the water smell different?

All of Mount Isa’s bulk water is supplied from lakes and goes through a filtration and treatment process. This process does not remove the slight smell and taste of lake water, but the water is still safe to drink.

Is the water tested?

Yes. The Mount Isa Water Board undertakes regular water quality monitoring in Clear Water Lagoon, Lake Moondarra, Lake Julius, and in the water distribution system. More than 10,000 water-quality tests are conducted each year to ensure water supplied to MICC meets Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

How does the Mount Isa Water Board review water quality?

The Mount Isa Water Board has an approved drinking water quality management plan based on the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines and the risk management approach of the Water Supply (Safety and Reliability Act) (Qld).

How does the Mount Isa Water Board treat the water?

Historically, the water in Mount Isa has been treated using a natural filtration and treatment process in Clear Water Lagoon. However, in late 2013, a significant blue-green algae bloom caused the lagoon’s natural filtration process to fail. This resulted in the lagoon being unable to provide water of an appropriate quality for the Mount Isa community without subsequent filtration. As there was no likelihood that the algae bloom could be resolved within a suitable timeframe, the Mount Isa Water Board urgently sourced a filtration system as an interim measure to ensure the continued supply of clean water to Mount Isa City Council.

In 2015 the blue-green algae bloom in Clear Water Lagoon grew to be potentially the largest ever recorded in a Queensland water supply system, with more than 6 million cells per millilitre (recorded 3 March 2015). 10,000 cells per millilitre is considered normal and acceptable. New, permanent micro-filtration treatment equipment was introduced in March 2015, expanding on the capacity of the emergency plant and providing an appropriate standard of assurance to the quality of drinking water supplied to Mount Isa City Council.

Blue-Green Algae

What are blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae are naturally occurring bacteria found in rivers, lakes, soil, tree trunks and other places. In certain weather conditions, particularly involving long periods of hot dry weather, the blue-green algae “blooms” and there is a significant increase in the blue-green algae cell population. The recent local bloom has resulted in unprecedented levels of blue-green algae in Clear Water Lagoon, Lake Moondarra and Lake Julius.

Are blue-green algae unsafe?

Some species of blue-green algae produce a toxin that can cause a reaction in susceptible people if it is swallowed or gets on the skin. Reactions include a rash, hayfever-like symptoms or stomach aches. Drinking water supplied by MIWB is suitably treated to ensure it is safe to drink.

How does the Mount Isa Water Board treat blue-green algae?

Following a significant blue-green algae bloom in Clear Water Lagoon, Lake Moondarra and Lake Julius in late 2013, the Mount Isa Water Board installed a filtration plant as an interim measure to filter all water supplied to Mount Isa City Council customers. This filtration effectively removes all blue-green algae from the water before oxidation and then supplied to Mount Isa City Council. New, permanent micro-filtration treatment plant was introduced in March 2015 which provides an appropriate level of assurance of the quality of water supplied to Mount Isa City Council.

Does blue-green algae cause Motor Neurone Disease?

Following media coverage on this topic Queensland Department of Health have released a statement.

Why doesn’t the Mount Isa Water Board control blue-green algae in the lakes?

Blue-green algae activity is intermittent and influenced by weather. There are no sure, cost-effective methods that can be used to effectively and safely control the development of blue-green algae in Clear Water Lagoon, Lake Julius or Lake Moondarra. This is a challenge faced by many water authorities throughout Australia.

What impact does blue-green algae have on the Reserve?

Some species of blue-green algae produce a toxin that can cause a reaction in susceptible people if it is swallowed or gets on the skin. Reactions include a rash, hayfever-like symptoms or stomach aches.

The Mount Isa Water Board operates two blue-green algae information and indicator signs in the R48 Reserve to advise the public of the current blue-green algae risk.

R48 Reserve

What else does the Mount Isa Water Board do?

The Mount Isa Water Board is also the trustee for the R48 Water and Recreational Reserve, which includes the area surrounding Lake Moondarra. The Board operates and maintains the public facilities within the Reserve, mainly at Transport Bay, Blackrock and Warrina Park.

Can I camp in the Reserve?

No. Camping, open fires, dogs and shooting are not allowed in the Reserve.

What are by-laws?

In Queensland, reserves are generally governed by a set of model by-laws which are set out under the Land Regulation 2009. By-laws help to ensure these environments are protected and managed in an effective and sustainable manner.

What do the by-laws for the R48 Reserve relate to?

The by-laws govern how the R48 Reserve can be used and includes information relating to:
● Animals – protection, prohibition, and control of (including dogs)
● Camping
● Damaging or interfering with land or improvements
● Displaying or distributing literature
● Disturbing peaceful use of trust land
● Entering closed areas
● Lighting fires
● Litter
● Selling things
● Vehicle use

As the trustee for the Reserve, MIWB needs to be able to continue to effectively and sustainably manage the area and ensure its continued use as a safe water source and recreational area for the Mount Isa community.

Has there been a change the rules in respect to camping on the Reserve?

No. A this stage camping on the Reserve continues to be prohibited unless MIWB has expressly granted permission (as we do during the Moondarra Fishing Classic).

Notwithstanding this, MIWB understands that the R48 Reserve is important to the local community and that there may be community support for reviewing how permits are issued and the conditions under which camping could be made more generally permissible. It is also an opportunity for MIWB to understand if it needs to put in place more appropriate administrative mechanisms related to camping permit provision and management.

What is the process for adopting the by-laws?

The key steps in the by-law adoption process are:
1. By-laws are proposed and drafted, in this case MIWB propose to adopt the standard Model By-laws from the Land Regulation 2009
2. Public consultation process commences (consultation relates to the proposed adoption of the by-laws)
3. Public is provided with access to proposed by-laws
4. All public submissions made during consultation process are considered by MIWB as trustee for the Reserve
5. MIWB, as trustee, makes a decision by resolution, to proceed or not
6. By-laws are formally adopted (includes submission of proposed by-laws and record of the resolution to proceed, to Minister and formal gazetting process)
7. Public is notified that the by-laws have been adopted.

When will the proposed by-laws take effect?

The by-laws will then take effect once the Government has gazetted the by-laws. This means, the Minister has received a copy of the by-laws and a record of the resolution to proceed with the proposed by-laws, and arranges for the adoption of the by-laws to be published in the gazette. At this stage, we anticipate the full process should be completed during Spring 2016.

How long will the adopted by-laws be in effect?

Typically, by-laws are in place for perpetuity or until such time that the government-of-the-day seeks to review or change the Model By-Laws under the Land Regulation 2009.