Burrawang to Avon Tunnel
Burrawang to Avon Tunnel
About the project
Across NSW and the Greater Sydney region, more and more pressure is being placed on our water supply. Now, more than ever before, access to a sustainable and clean water supply through water sharing plans and improved infrastructure, is vital to all communities.
To safeguard water supply for the Greater Sydney region, WaterNSW is investigating the possibility of building a water transfer tunnel from Burrawang to Avon, known as the ‘BAT', or Burrawang to Avon Tunnel. While the BAT is still in the early planning stages, initial reviews have found a tunnel will be the most direct, low-impact and efficient route of transferring water.
The proposed tunnel will be around 20 kilometres long, running from Fitzroy Falls Reservoir to the Avon Dam. It will have the capacity to carry up to 1.8 GL per day—roughly the same as 720 Olympic-sized swimming pools. On average, it would increase water supply to Greater Sydney including the Illawarra by around 10 gigalitres per year. It will also protect the Illawarra from exposure to asset failure and alleviate future stresses on the Warragamba Dam catchment.
Currently, creeks and streams play a vital role in transferring water across the region. However, this transfer via run-of-rivers has environmental constraints on the timing and volume of water that can be moved. If built, the BAT will help to restore the natural flows of creeks and streams in the Southern Highlands, transfer water more efficiently and securely and reduce exposure to flooding and erosion.
The project also includes a 9km spur line connecting the tunnel directly to the pipeline for the Illawarra Treatment Plant. This will provide a greater certainty of water supply for the Illawarra into the future, provide an initial extra 10gL of storage and eliminate pumping from Fitzroy Falls to Wingecarribee Reservoir saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
As part of WaterNSW’s commitment to support the NSW Government’s ‘NSW Pumped Hydro Roadmap’, this project will also explore the feasibility of a hydropower generation plant. Should it proceed, WaterNSW will be obliged to return 50% of any non-regulated income to the customer which will reduce the price of water for the Greater Sydney region.
The proposed tunnel will be around 20 kilometres long, running from Fitzroy Falls Reservoir to the Avon Dam. The tunnel would start at the Wildes Meadow Canal near Fitzroy Falls Reservoir and run to the upper reaches of the Avon Dam.
Along are the towns of Burrawang, Wildes Meadow, Robertson, East Kangaloon and Mount Murray. The northern half of the project predominantly crosses bushland and fire roads.
The map below shows the current water infrastructure in the Southern Highlands and the proposed BAT.
The map below shows the proposed location of the BAT:
Currently, creeks and streams play a vital role in transferring water across the region. However, this transfer via run-of-rivers has environmental constraints on the timing and volume of water that can be moved.
If built, the BAT will help to restore the natural flows of creeks and streams in the Southern Highlands, transfer water more efficiently and securely and reduce exposure to flooding and erosion.
Other potential benefits of the BAT include:
- improving local fauna and flora habitats
- increasing water supply to Greater Sydney, Wollondilly and the Illawarra
- protecting water quality
- improving water security
- easing stress on regions water network.
The Greater Sydney water system supplies 5 million people in Sydney, Southern Highlands, Illawarra, Blue Mountains, Goulburn and Shoalhaven with clean, and reliable drinking water. Water is collected from rivers and catchments to the south and west of Sydney, stored in 21 major dams and transferred around the region to filtration plants using rivers, pipes, canals and tunnels.
It is the responsibility of WaterNSW to ensure that good quality raw water is provided to suppliers such as Sydney Water and local Councils for use by the whole community. Under legislation, WaterNSW must ensure there is a sufficient supply to meet demand.
In NSW, water is allocated via water sharing plans. These plans provide water users with a clear picture of when and how water will be available, and ensure that the water source remains sustainable and healthy in the long term. The greater Sydney region is covered by the Greater Metropolitan Region Unregulated River Water Sources Sharing Plan.
WaterNSW are still exploring the feasibility of the BAT, and no development approvals have been granted.
To assist with this project, a team of experts have been bought together including EMM Consulting who will undertake the environmental assessments and coordinate all community engagement.
Currently, a team is assessing:
- tunnel and spur line concept design
- potential for environmental impacts including studies into biodiversity; surface water and groundwater movements; soils, geology and hydrogeology; climate change and bushfires
- Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal heritage
- potential impact on local roads, traffic, transport and waste management
- socio-economic impacts and benefits
- potential impact on local communities including noise and vibration, and visual impacts.
These studies are expected to conclude in mid-2020 and will be displayed for public comment as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment.
A timeline of the approvals process can be seen below:
For more information on the approvals process, visit Department of Planning Industry and the Environment (DPIE).