Frequently Asked Questions about Water
Water Quality Issues
Water Supply – Where Does Our Water Come From?
Leaking pipes, toilets and taps can waste a lot of water, leading to high water bills. For example, a tap that drips once every second will waste up to 33 litres a day.
Leaks can also cause structural damage to your property and even attract termites.
Checking for leaks regularly and repairing them quickly is a simple task that can be often overlooked as a way to save water and money.
This section provides some simple ways to detect leaks, the steps you should take if you find a leak and what you can do to help prevent leaks.
Lithgow City Council is responsible for water leaks from the supply system up to and including the water meter. Water leaks that occur from water pipes and fittings on your side of the water meter are the responsibility of the property owner.
If you find a leak, turn off your water supply immediately and call a licensed plumber.
If you think you may have a leak or would like to check, please follow the steps below:
- Turn off all taps and water using appliances in and around your home.
- Check your water meter. If the dials on your water meter are moving there could be a leak. If there is no movement on the dials, there may still be a slow leak.
- To check if there is a leak or a slow leak, do not use any water for a substantial amount of time, such as overnight, then take another reading. If the meter reading has changed, there may be a slow leak.
- To fix the leak, check all fixtures and fittings and/or call a licensed plumber.
Plumbing work carried out must be completed by a licensed plumber or a licensed tradesperson, working under the direction of a licensed plumber.
Refer to the Yellow Pages.
Preventing leaks in your home could save you money. Here are some simple ways to prevent leaks:
- Take care not to plant large trees over pipes and mains that run through your property as their root growth may damage the pipes
- Root growth can also cause cracks and leaks in your pool. Please speak to your local nursery about suitable plants
- Inspect your pool regularly for cracks and signs of leaks
- Ensure automatic watering systems (e.g. pool top up, irrigation) are regularly maintained and checked for leaks
- Turn taps off gently to help lengthen the life of washers
- If you have a water hammer problem, install water hammer arresters. By reducing shock, these help extend the life of affected pipes
- Ensure all building and renovation work is undertaken by a licensed professional.
Water meters are an important part of Council’s water supply infrastructure. Meters accurately record the water consumed by each property. This enables billing by Council for the water consumed and permits Council to account for all the water supplied to the community.
In 2010/2011, Council adopted a water charges structure that moves toward compliance with the State Government’s Best Practice Guidelines. This requires an access charge based on capacity (water meter size) and a two-step pricing system for water consumption for resident customers.
Under the Best Practice Guidelines, Council must receive no less than 75% of its water charges from residential customers via usage charges. Therefore high volume water consumers will pay more than those who consume a lower volume of water. The Minister for Water has agreed that Council may move toward this split over the next 3 years.
In accordance with best Practice Guidelines, business customers will be charged a flat rate per kilolitre without any step increase.
Lithgow City Council will notify customers of any water quality issues as soon as we become aware of them.
Customers who use large quantities of water or who are highly dependent on water, such as dialysis patients and businesses, are notified directly. Other customers are notified via community announcements and our website.
If you think you have an issue with your water quality we ask that you call us on 02 6354 9999 or visit our website.
Our comprehensive monitoring and maintenance program ensures our customers and consumers enjoy the highest quality water. However, external factors can sometimes alter water quality causing:
- discoloured water
- algal bloom
- white water
- blue water
Discoloured water looks brown or muddy and can stain when washing. It is an irregular occurrence caused mainly by the natural element, manganese.
While water may look brown, it will not cause people to become ill if consumed. Manganese levels up to 0.5 mg/L are safe to drink. If you receive brown water, generally it will maintain manganese levels of less than 0.5 mg/L – and is therefore safe to drink.
Manganese collects on the inside of pipes. During times of high demand or changes in flow, these films can loosen, causing water to appear stained or dirty. We prevent the problem at our water treatment plants and undertake substantial flushing of the pipe system in affected areas.
If discoloured water is present, it can stain clothes when washing. During times of discoloured water we suggest residents delay washing clothes. If this is not possible, we recommend:
- running some water into the machine to check the water colour before washing clothes
- check the water colour before the washing machine reaches the rinse cycle – as it is at this stage that clothes can be stained.
What should I do if the washing gets dirty?
If your load of washing is dirty or stained, you should keep the washing completely wet, and not hang it out. If you have a nappy stain remover then the affected washing should be soaked and washed as directed, as they often can remove the stains once the water has been cleared.
Some washing powders cause the pH level of the water in the washing machine to increase, and this has the effect of causing manganese or iron in the water to come out of solution and to stain the washing. Also, powders high in phosphorus can also have the same effect.
A good quality liquid dishwashing detergent can also help remove dirty water stains.
Blue-green algae (or cynobacteria) is responsible for many of the algal blooms in Lithgow's recreational waterways during the past few years. Blue-green algae feeds on nutrients washed into waterways, or from nutrients released from sediments.
Algal blooms are likely to form when:
- the water is relatively still
- nutrients levels are high
- temperatures remain warm
- after a period of high rainfall that results in nutrients being washed from the catchment into the dam
Although algal blooms are very rare in Farmers Creek Dam water supply, our water treatment plant using a combination of flocculation, filtration and chlorination is highly effective in treating water affected by a bloom, making it safe and palatable to drink.
Milky or cloudy appearance is usually due to tiny air bubbles in the water. This can occur when air is trapped in the pipes after they have been repaired, or if carbon dioxide is released by the sudden reduction in pressure with a tap discharging.
Air in water is harmless and a glass of white water left standing will quickly clear.
Blue water may have a cloudy, blue tinged appearance. It can taste bitter and metallic.
In most cases it comes from copper pipe that has not been used for some time and has become slightly corroded.
Blue or green water may contain high levels of copper and should not be used for drinking or food preparation.
While blue water is potentially serious, the solution is simple. Flush the affected taps for one to two minutes before use. Testing shows that within seconds of flushing, copper levels drop to well below guideline limits.
The major water storages in the area include Farmers Creek Dam #2, Oberon Dam, Lake Lyell and Lake Wallerawang. Only Farmers Creek Dam #2 and Oberon Dam supply drinking water.
Water from Farmers Creek Dam is filtered at the Oakey Park Water Treatment Plant and supplied to Lithgow. The original lower dam (Dam #1) which was built in 1896 is no longer used. The upper dam which was built in 1907 has a capacity of 450 ML and has a top water level of 1000m AHD. Farmers Creek Dam has a small catchment area of 12 km². The secure yield of Farmers Creek Dam has been estimated at 400 ML/a under current environmental flow release requirements.
The Farmers Creek Dam system is also provided with a supplementary supply from the Clarence Water Transfer Scheme. When there is insufficient natural water flow into the dam, up to 5 ML/day of water can be transferred from the Clarence Water Transfer Scheme.
Fish River Water Scheme
Fish River Water Scheme sources of water are the Oberon Dam (capacity 45,400ML) and the Duckmaloi Weir (20ML). Water gravitates to the scheme with pressure booster stations at Narrowneck and Mt Piper. Present water supply management for the use of water from the Fish River covers supply of drinking water to Lithgow's rural villages on a continuous basis but supply is also able to be connected to Lithgow town water under a supply arrangement. Provision for using this water is conditional and based on the availability of water from other sources such as Farmers Creek and Clarence Water Transfer Scheme. The FRWS currently operates for the villages beyond the water main junction at West Wallerawang.