Cloncurry Water Pipeline brings relief

Construction of the 38 km Cloncurry Pipeline was completed in November 2009, with water flowing into the Cloncurry township in March 2010.

The 450 mm diameter pipeline has the capacity to deliver 900 ML/a of water, pumping from Lake Julius via connection to SunWater’s 110 km North West Queensland Water Pipeline, upstream of the Ernest Henry Mine. From there the pipeline runs parallel to the New Zingari Road, east of the Cloncurry township, before heading south.

The reason

The decision to construct the pipeline was announced by Queensland Premier Anna Bligh in early December 2008, and was a response to the severe water shortages in the town of Cloncurry following periods of extended drought.

The issue was brought to the attention of the Queensland Government by the Cloncurry Shire Council, who requested assistance to solve the water shortage by the construction of a new pipeline from the Ernst Henry Mine to augment existing water supply infrastructure.

Prior to construction of the pipeline, water was being brought into the town by rail from Mt Isa.

The process

SunWater contracted Moody Civil and Pipe to construct the pipeline via an early contractor involvement (ECI) contract. Pipe was supplied by Iplex Pipelines, and was first delivered to Cloncurry in June 2009. Construction commenced in July of the same year.

The project used ductile iron cement-lined pipes, which measured 6 m in length and 450 mm in diameter. PVC pipes were also installed for the final 8 km of the pipeline into the township, with 4,800 pipes used in the construction of the project. Up to 500 m was trenched each day.

Two rail crossings and three road crossings were also included in the pipeline. SunWater subcontracted Bothar Boring to complete the five underground crossings of 30 to 40 m long using steel cased auger boring.

In January 2009, there were doubts about the future of the pipeline due to flooding in the area. The floods delayed work, but also made the timeline in which to complete the project more flexible. The Queensland Government said that, despite the floods, construction of the pipeline would proceed as planned.

Moody Civil and Pipe completed construction of the pipeline in November 2009.

Local industry

Construction contractor Moody and SunWater were committed to using local services where possible.

Materials sourced locally included gravel, sand, cement, concrete, fencing and fuel. Local labourers and plant operators were engaged on the project and the 40 member construction team resided locally in Cloncurry motels.

Environmental considerations

With minimisation of environmental disturbance in mind, SunWater designed the alignment of the pipeline to follow the existing road reserve, thereby limiting the need to construct access roads for the pipeline construction. This had the dual effect of limiting the impact on property owners and their businesses.

Topsoil was stockpiled along the alignment prior to construction and returned to its original location to provide a natural seedbed for germination when it rains.

Despite having permits for a 30 m construction corridor, by employing GPS driven excavation equipment, the team was able to limit the construction corridor to 10 m to further minimise the project’s impact. This solution was a result of the strong partnership-style relationship developed between SunWater and Moody during the ECI process.

In addition, materials leftover from the Cloncurry pipeline construction were recycled and reused.

Approximately 6 tonnes of strapping steel, used in freighting the 4,800 pipes required for the project, were recycled by a local steel recycling agent. Approximately 4 tonnes of timber pipe supports were returned to pipe suppliers for reuse in their operations.


Moody Civil and Pipe have a recognised workplace health and safety system in place, and appointed a full time workplace health and safety officer to the project. Daily pre-start meetings ensured all crews were aware of safety issues and requirements.

Construction involved various high risk activities, including craning, slinging and trenching. All deep trenches were battered, benched or shored to ensure workers safety.

An independent audit of the workplace health and safety system in place for the project was undertaken to identify any shortfalls in implementation. The audit findings were positive in relation to safety management during the construction process.

The outcome

The Cloncurry Pipeline project was the first time SunWater has adopted the ECI approach to project construction, and the company attributes the successful and timely completion of the project to this process.

Working together from the outset of the project enabled SunWater and its contractor to develop an in-depth partnership-style relationship.

Spending time discussing construction issues, allocating risks and making decisions before being in the field meant that issues during construction were quickly remedied. This was possible because the decisions had already been made about how they were to be managed during the ECI process.

As a result of its successes, SunWater has now adopted this process for future projects.

Honours in lowering the last pipe were given to Member for Mt Isa Betty Kiernan and Cloncurry Shire Mayor Andrew Daniels.

Mrs Kiernan said “Recognising the urgent need for a reliable water supply in Cloncurry, this pipeline project has been fast-tracked with construction completed in less than four months – ahead of schedule and under budget.

“The construction of the pipeline has created employment for about 20 people locally, sustained employment for approximately 40 project contractors and injected around $3 million into the local economy.”

Workers on the pipeline celebrate its completion.

Pipeline stats * Length: 38 km * Diameter: 450 mm * Capacity: 900 ML/a * Cost: $42.5 million
Cultural considerations
A cultural heritage survey was undertaken in March and April of 2009, identifying a range of culturally significant artefact along the route of the pipeline.
The route was re-designed in respect to these artefact, except where the Mitakoodi people gave permission to relocate them.

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