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Pipelines – watering a sun-burnt country

Despite recent rain and flooding across Australia, water pipelines still play an important role in securing against drought. Here, The Australian Pipeliner looks at water pipeline developments over the past year.

Australian Capital Territory

In recent years, the ACT’s water supply has suffered from uncertainty. While the past year has seen the territory’s drought come to an end and its dam levels reach full supply level, water pipeline action is still required to ensure the security and sustainability of the region’s water supply into the future.

One of the major water security infrastructure projects ACTEW is undertaking is the 12 km, 1 m diameter Murrumbidgee to Googong Water Transfer Project, which is currently under construction. Up to 100 ML/d of water will be pumped from the Murrumbidgee River, travelling underground through a 12 km underground pipeline before travelling an additional 13 km along Burra Creek into the Googong Reservoir in New South Wales.

The Bulk Water Alliance – which comprises John Holland, Abigroup and GHD – began construction on the entire project in late January 2011, with construction of the pipeline component beginning in June 2011. As of 1 December 2011, approximately 7.5 km of pipeline had been installed.

The pipeline and its associated infrastructure is expected to reach completion by June 2012.


Since 1997, Melbourne has experienced its longest drought on record, according to Melbourne Water. Melbourne Water says that the drought has severely reduced the amount of water flowing in the city’s rivers and creeks, and the level of water stored in its water supply reservoirs.

To alleviate the effects of the drought in Melbourne and regional Victoria, a number of water pipelines have been proposed, with many well into construction or recently completed.

The 59 km, 800 mm diameter Melbourne to Geelong pipeline is currently being constructed by Abigroup, with almost 55 km of the 59 km pipeline completed. The pipeline, when completed, will have a capacity of up to 16 GL/a. The project is planned for completion in February 2012.

Mitchell Water began construction of the 40 km, 63-110 mm diameter Mt Hope Stock and Domestic Pipeline Project in Mt Hope, northern Victoria, at the end of 2011. The pipeline, which is scheduled for completion in January 2012, will be constructed using PN8 high density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe.

In Serpentine, northern Victoria, the 148 km, 63-250 mm diameter East Loddon Stock and Domestic Pipeline Project has been designed and installed. The project, which is also being constructed by Mitchell Water, commenced in May 2011. At the time of writing, testing of the PN9, PN12 PVC and HDPE pipelines had been undertaken and the project was awaiting power provision at the pump station. The planned completion of the project is January 2012.

The 30 km, 100-225 mm diameter Upper Goulburn Regional Water Supply Project reached completion last year and is currently in operation, transporting 3 ML/d of water from Alexandra to Thornton and Eildon. J&C Reid Earthmoving began construction of the pipeline in April 2009, with completion of the pipeline and commissioning performed by Keogh Contracting Victoria in October 2011.

At the end of October 2011, pipelay of the 84 km, 1.93 m diameter Wonthaggi Desalination transfer pipeline was completed by the Thiess Degrémont Nacap joint venture. Construction of the pipeline began in February 2010, and it is now capable of transporting 200 GL/a of water from the desalination plant to Melbourne and regional water networks.

Western Australia

As one of the driest regions of Australia, WA uses water pipelines as one method to secure future water supply for residential, agricultural and commercial purposes.

The 31 km, 350-900 mm diameter Gascoyne Irrigation Pipeline Project, which began in mid-May 2011, will upgrade existing ageing asbestos cement pipes with PN6.3 and PN8 HDPE pipe, delivering up to 120 ML/d of water to Carnarvon horticulture plantations. The project will receive $7.4 million from the WA Government as part of its Royalties for Regions program. The project is well into the construction stage and is expected to be completed by the end of January 2012. At the time of writing, contractor Pipe Fusions Australia was close to completing construction of the mainline, with work progressing on individual property connections.

Rio Tinto has invested approximately $299 million in a coastal water supply project, including a new approximately 90 km, large diameter pipeline to aid in the expansion of its iron ore operations in the Pilbara region of WA. The new borefield and pipeline system is expected to be completed by mid-2013.

An approximately 1,800 km water pipeline has also been proposed to pump water from WA’s northwest region into the River Murray system.

Land Access and Management Services (LAMS) Operations Director – National Pipeline Project Management Group Peter Rayner said that the proposal had the potential to deliver up to 8,000 GL/a of water, and that approximately 4,000 GL of this would be introduced in to the Murray Darling System. The balance would be available to secure the long-term water future of South Australia, the Northern Territory and their resource development opportunities.

The project would involve multiple parallel pipelines, associated pumping stations, and a supporting gas pipeline to power the necessary pumping facilities.

The proposal would see a pipeline constructed from the Ord River in WA’s Kimberley region across to the Adelaide – Darwin rail line in the NT, then follow the line south into SA before detouring in a south-easterly direction to Murray Darling system.

LAMS has commenced investigatory studies related to water supply to SA, in collaboration with a small group including SA Independent Member for Frome Geoff Brock.


Southern Water is currently undertaking an extensive capital expenditure program, encompassing $500 million worth of investment planned over the next decade, including investment in water pipelines focused mainly on renewals of existing infrastructure.

In addition to this, Tasmanian Irrigation has proposed the 140 km, 200-1,200 mm diameter Midlands Irrigation Scheme Pipeline. At the time of writing, the project was in the final approval and design phase, and construction tenders had been released. The pipeline will be constructed using polyethylene and ductile iron cement-lined or mild steel cement-lined (MSCL) pipe, to transfer 38.5 GL/a of water from Arthurs Lake to the Midlands region. Construction is expected to begin in April 2012 with completion scheduled for April 2014.

Gunns Ltd’s Bell Bay Pulp Mill Project is also working towards obtaining financial approval to proceed. Design of the 40 km, 800 mm diameter water supply and 20 km, 800 mm diameter effluent pipeline systems have been developed sufficiently to confirm the route and pipeline construction characteristics and the construction cost.

A commencement date has not yet been determined as a result of the decision being subject to achieving financial close and notice to proceed, however, the pipelines are expected to take approximately 18 months to design and construct following receipt of notice to commence.

The pipelines will have the capacity to transport 68 ML/d, and the water pipeline will be constructed from MSCL pipe with varying wall thickness dependent on pressure requirements, while the effluent pipeline will be constructed using HDPE pipe.

New South Wales

On average, Sydney Water has renewed approximately 110 km of water pipeline per year over the past four years, with a similar length of water pipelines laid in new development areas annually. The company predicts it will renew approximately 90 km of water pipelines per year over the next four years, with more than 80 per cent of these pipelines expected to have a diameter of 150 mm or less.

Part of this renewal process includes the $7 million Pipeline NSW program, which will not only provide farmers with a more efficient and reliable water supply but will also save water for the environment.

The program plans to replace wasteful open channels with efficient pipelines, tanks and troughs to deliver water for stock as well as domestic use.

Funding for this program is part of the Australian Government’s $12.9 billion Water for the Future initiative. The 50 per cent contribution from the NSW Government comes from the NSW Rivers Environmental Restoration Program, specifically the River Bank Program.

The NSW Office of Water is responsible for the implementation of the program in partnership with the Federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

Three projects which make up the program include:

The 170 km, 50-125 mm diameter Barwon Channel Pipeline Project which will pump 100 ML/a of stock and domestic water from the Barwon River;
The 170 km, 50-110 mm diameter Lower Gwydir Pipeline Scheme which will convert groundwater to domestic water that will be supplied to 38 houses; and,
The 115 km, 50-75 mm diameter Lower Lachlan River Noonamah Project, which will obtain 140 ML/a of stock and domestic water from three new groundwater bores to supply 43 tanks and 67 troughs to three properties.

Orange City Council has proposed the 37 km, 375 mm diameter Orange Drought Relief Connection, which will involve a pipeline to transport up to 7 ML/d of water from the Macquarie River to the Orange water treatment plant.

A number of contractors have been consulted for preliminary quotations for the pipe, tanks, pumps and bores to be used in the project including Tyco Water, Permastore Tanks and Silos, KSB and AJ Lucas respectively.

Moving forward, the project proponent is set to determine the final pipeline length and alignment, and the location of the capture pump and station. At the time of writing, the project was set to commence construction at the end of 2011.

Construction is now complete for the pipeline component of the 35 km, 100-300 mm diameter Merri Abba Bore Pipeline Project at Lake Cargelligo, in western NSW.

The rest of the project remains under construction with the latest activity on the project including water treatment, pump station building and concrete reservoir construction. See page 114 for more information on this project.

The Gingham Pipeline Project, located in the Gwydir Wetlands in NSW, has also reached completion. The project involves a 240 km pipeline network that supplies domestic water sourced from the Gwydir Alluvim to 65 water tanks and to an area of approximately 90,000 hectares of farm land.

Stock and domestic water allowance for landholders in the Gingham Watercourse area, at 6 GL/a, was previously delivered by a channel constructed in the late 1970s. The Gingham Pipeline is expected to deliver water to users more efficiently with the benefit of increased environmental flows to the Gingham Watercourse due to water savings.


According to a spokesperson from the Northern Network Alliance (NNA) – which is comprised of McConnell Dowell, Abigroup and Kellogg, Brown and Root – South East Queensland is one of the fastest growing regions in Australia, with the population set to increase significantly in the next 25 years, meaning that a secure water supply for the future is essential.

Completed in two stages, the 47 km, 750-1,290 mm diameter Northern Pipeline Interconnector (NPI) – Stage 1 was completed in December 2008 to accommodate the reverse-flow capacity installed as part of the nearly complete 48 km, 1,200 mm diameter NPI – Stage 2. The NNA was appointed as the construction contractor for both stages of the NPI.

At the time of writing, completion of Stage 2 was scheduled for end of 2011, with commissioning to take place in the first quarter of 2012. For more information on this project, see page 113.

SunWater is also working on a number of pipeline projects in Queensland. The 133 km, 1.2-1.5 m diameter Connors River Dam to Moranbah Pipeline Project aims to increase the Bowen Basin and surrounding regions’ water supply reliability and security by transporting 50 GL/a of water from the proposed Connors River Dam.

The project is currently in an advanced planning and design phase, with John Holland Group selected as the preferred construction tenderer. Environmental impact statement (EIS) and approvals for the project are currently being finalised and are expected to be completed in early 2012. The pipeline is due to commence construction in April 2012 with completion scheduled for early 2014.

The 265 km, 1,150 mm diameter Moranbah to Alpha Pipeline is currently in planning, but has completed preliminary design and has issued an early contractor involvement (ECI) tender. An ECI contract is expected to be issued by February 2012, with the pipeline planned for completion in 2014. The pipeline will transport approximately 25 GL/a of water to the Galilee Basin to meet forecasted demand for water by commercial mining operations and provide a reliable water supply to the town of Alpha.

The 260 km, 1.2 m diameter Nathan Dam and Pipelines Project will provide approximately 48 GL/a of water from the proposed Nathan Dam through the Surat Basin, potentially extending as far as Dalby. At the time of writing, the EIS was being completed and approval was being sought from the Co-ordinator General of Queensland for release in early 2012. If the project is approved, construction could commence as early as 2016, pending foundation customer commitment. If this occurs, the project could be completed by 2019.

At the time of writing, the 120 km, 1,016 mm diameter Woleebee Creek to Glebe Weir Pipeline Project had just completed the preliminary design phase, with detailed design expected to be finalised in mid-2012. The pipeline, which has a design capacity of 36.5 GL/a of water, will deliver the Dawson region of central Queensland an additional water supply solution based on beneficial use of treated CSG water. Construction is due to commence in mid-2012 and the pipeline is expected to be operational by mid-2013.

South Australia

SA’s overall water situation improved in 2010-11 due to the highest River Murray flows for nearly 20 years and the highest amount of natural inflows into Adelaide’s reservoirs since 2004-05.

However, despite this improvement, water pipeline infrastructure still plays an important role in securing the state against the possibility of future drought.

SA Water is currently undertaking the $403 million North South Interconnection System Project which consists of a range of works to connect northern and southern water supply networks.

These works will allow SA Water to improve water reliability for Adelaide. Water from the Adelaide Desalination Plant will also be distributed throughout the whole water supply network system from 2012.

The approximately 32 km pipeline will vary between 762 and 1,016 mm in diameter and consists of a number of components, including the 12.5 km Eastern Pipeline, the 5.7 km Northern Pipeline, the 10.3 km Central Pipeline and the 3.2 km Western Pipeline.

At the time of writing, each of these components were at varying stages of completion: the Eastern Pipeline was finalising construction with commissioning to commence soon; the Northern Pipeline was under construction with approximately 35 per cent of the pipeline completed; the Central Pipeline was finalising construction planning and the final design for later sections; and the Western Pipeline was still in planning, with tenders being evaluated.

The last component of the pipeline to reach completion will be the Central Pipeline, with the commission date scheduled for August 2012.

Construction contractor profile – Abigroup Water
With over 20 years’ experience in the industry, with an estimated over 1,000 km of water pipeline constructed, Abigroup is a major contributor to Australian water pipeline construction and delivery.
Recent projects:

  • Southern Regional Water Pipeline, Queensland
  • Melbourne to Geelong Pipeline, Victoria
  • Murrumbidgee to Googong Pipeline, Australian Capital Territory.

Construction contractor profile – McConnell Dowell
Since 1960, the pipelines business unit at McConnell Dowell has delivered well over 100 pipelines, both locally and internationally.
Recent major water infrastructure pipelines have ranged up to 1.8 m in diameter, demanding heavy equipment, heavy lifts, welding, deep trenches and tight easements.
McConnell Dowell also has extensive experience in delivering facilities associated with water pipeline facilities such as water storages, balancing tanks, pump stations and treatment facilities.
Recent projects:

  • Sydney Water Desalination Pipeline, NSW
  • Western Sydney Recycled Water Scheme, NSW.

Supplier profile – PPI Corporation
Since 1979, PPI Corporation has offered HDPE pipe and fittings 16-800 mm in diameter to the water pipelines industry.
Recent projects:

  • Kenya Water Treatment Plant, Queensland
  • Mine Dewatering Project, Queensland
  • Regency Road Water Main Relining, SA.

Construction contractor profile – Mitchell Water
Mitchell Water has engineered, procured and constructed over 11,000 km of pipelines, predominantly in rural and outback Australia.
The company’s first involvement in the Australian water pipeline industry was in 1984, and they have since been involved in projects across Australia in NSW, Queensland, SA, Victoria and Tasmania.
Recent projects:

  • East Loddon Stock and Domestic Pipeline Project, Victoria
  • Merri Abba Bore Pipeline Project, NSW
  • Mt Hope Stock and Domestic Pipeline Project, Victoria.

Supplier profile – Tyco Water
Tyco Water has more than 100 years of experience in the continuous manufacturing improvement and supply of one of the most extensive range of pipeline solutions to the Australian water industry.
Tyco Water’s development of innovative pipeline solutions for the industry began in 1896 with Tyco’s predecessor, Mephan Ferguson, supplying the 560 km Golden Pipeline which was constructed to carry freshwater from Mundaring Weir in WA to arid goldfields 560 km to the east.
Recent projects:

  • Sintakote MSCL pipe and fittings supplied to the Wonthaggi Desalination transfer pipeline, Victoria
  • Sintakote MSCL pipe and fittings supplied to the North South Interconnection System Project, SA.

Supplier profile – Iplex Pipelines
Iplex Pipelines, established in 1938, markets pipes ranging in size from 16 mm – 3 m in diameter, in a large variety of materials.
Iplex products are used for applications including potable water, gas, stormwater and sewerage, trenchless pipe systems, chemical and slurry pipelines and irrigation systems.
Recent projects:

  • Flowtite glass-reinforced pipe supplied to the Western Corridor recycled water pipeline network, Queensland
  • Ductile iron pipe supplied to the Cloncurry pipeline, Queensland.

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