Thursday, April 16, 2009

Benefits of water project 'inflated'

Interesting news regarding the food bowl modernisation project. The results of this 'fudging has direct impacts on the the North-South pipeline and water security for Melbourne.

From what is reported it looks like they decided more water was going into the system before the works which meant that it was operating at a higher efficiency afterwards 'creating' more savings.

Measuring flows into systems and out of systems is quite difficult but it appears strange that the pilot study was not more conservative in the estimates. Questions should be asked why this is the case.

Was it pressure from GMW to modernise ageing assets?
Was it private entities wanting a chunk of work?
Was it government pressure to make the N-S pipeline more viable?

Benefits of water project 'inflated'
Melissa Fyfe April 12, 2009

A SENATE inquiry will hear damning evidence this week that casts further doubt on water savings from the $2 billion Food Bowl Modernisation Project, a key part of the Brumby Government's water plan.

A Government insider has provided the Plug the Pipe campaign with documents that appear to show that data in a pilot project was changed to inflate water savings.

The irrigation technology tested in the pilot, called Total Channel Control, is now at the heart of the Government's food bowl project.

Ken Pattison, a Plug the Pipe member and former director of Goulburn-Murray Water, will present the documents, also obtained by The Sunday Age, to the Senate inquiry into the Water Amendment Bill 2008 when it sits in Shepparton on Tuesday.

Mr Pattison told The Sunday Age that the evidence would show the pilot project set a pattern of overestimating water savings from irrigation upgrades. "We believe we are going to put a crack in the wall," he said.

Mr Pattison will present the evidence on behalf of the Government insider, who has decided not to appear. One of the documents, by the pilot project's consultants, URS, says the project working group — which included the Department of Sustainability, Goulburn-Murray Water and Rubicon Systems Australia, the makers of Total Channel Control — met in Melbourne in April 2004 and "assumptions" about losses and flows were agreed to.

But in an economic evaluation of the pilot, it appears the average yearly flows into the area have been bumped up by more than 4000 million litres to 17,400 million litres.

Other project documents show the historic average annual flow to be about 13,100 million litres. The effect of this change was to make the percentage of water saved look better than it was, the Government insider believes.

Another document, prepared by project manager Clive Luscombe, describes how it was expected that the technology would boost the efficiency of the channels to 93 per cent, but in fact the pilot achieved only 79 per cent.

"Clearly this result was not to be expected based on the pre-pilot information," the report says.

Mr Luscombe puts the problem down to "pre-pilot conditions" and the difficulty in manually measuring the outfall, or excess water, coming from irrigation districts.

A spokesman for the State Government said it would not comment on evidence it was yet to hear.

The Government has claimed the food bowl project will deliver up to 75 billion litres of water to Melbourne each year after 2010.

Rubicon Systems Australia's contract to supply its irrigation modernisation equipment to the project is believed to be worth several hundred million dollars.

Plug the Pipe and the Government insider believe the alteration of the data in the pilot project led to an overestimation of water savings that has never been properly audited.

The Government has been under pressure to prove the project will deliver the water savings to make the $750 million north-south pipeline worthwhile.

Last year the Auditor-General criticised the Government for the "inadequate rigour applied to estimate costs, benefits and risks of some of the key component projects" of its water plan and called on it to "publish the detailed analysis underpinning the estimates of water savings and costs for the Food Bowl Modernisation Project".

The Government has refused to release its business case under freedom-of-information laws.


Jayne said...

I'd like to point out that this is exactly what the supporters of Plug The Pipe and other resistance groups have been saying all along - and they're the ones with the first-hand knowledge of what is, isn't and possibly might be saved with improvements...not some tin-pot Govt minister with nary an idea between his ears except how to construct a sentence :P

dam buster said...

Jayne - the issue with the orignal assessment is that there were representatives from G-MW there. They are the ones who should have known better.