New SunWater Service Manager prepares for dry conditions

20 Nov 2015

When Travis Richards returned home to the Burdekin earlier this year, he was looking forward to working amongst irrigators in one of Queensland’s largest water supply schemes.

Four months into the role of Service Manager at the SunWater Clare Depot, he is acutely aware that there may be some extra challenges for the region as a result of declining water storage levels at the Burdekin Falls Dam.

Travis’ experience and understanding of the scheme’s capacity places him in an ideal position to take a proactive stance on customer engagement in what may be shaping up to be potentially more dry conditions in the season ahead.

"For the past ten years I have held senior management roles in local government and water utilities, being a results-driven leader delivering strong customer relationships", Travis said, after recently moving back to North Queensland from Tasmania.

"The potential for extended dry conditions in the coming season is causing SunWater and our customers to consider some extra challenges not usually experienced in our scheme", Travis said.

"I understand the necessity of water supply for our Burdekin customers, and while the weather is out of our control, there are ways in which SunWater can assist our customers and manage the scheme during dry conditions."

"It is important that our customers understand and are prepared for the implications on the Burdekin Water Supply Scheme if dry conditions prevail. People can react more effectively when they understand the scale of an issue", Travis said as he goes on to explain the importance of keeping customers informed and making improvements to better manage challenges if and when they arise.

"First and foremost, I will be focussing on ensuring our assets are in good condition and aquatic weeds are controlled to avoid any restrictions to the channel capacity.

The current weather conditions are ideal for aquatic weed growth and because of this we commenced scheduled weed treatments in the channel system one month earlier than normal."

"We will also be closely applying the approved water sharing rules to ensure equitable use of the available water and we will be increasing monitoring and surveillance of water use in the coming months. If customers require additional water, there are options such as temporary transfers and water trading."

Travis added that SunWater recently invited customers to participate in water ordering and self monitoring usage training.

"The training was designed to assist customers in accessing relevant information to manage their water use allocations online and it was pleasing to see many of our customers taking the opportunity to participate in this training."

Customers that were unable to attend the training can contact SunWater’s customer support team on 13 15 89 to register their interest in attending a future session or obtain the training over the phone.

Travis said customers are now able to check online for information about the potential future water levels for Burdekin Falls Dam.

"This will be a really useful tool for our customers, allowing them to keep an eye on potential water supplies for a range of dam inflow scenarios for up to twelve months down the track."

In addition, announced allocation prediction graphs are already available on SunWater’s website.

"These graphs are just one example of how SunWater is focussing our efforts to ensure customers have the necessary information to make informed decisions", he said.

A round of Shed Meetings is currently being conducted throughout the scheme to give our customers an opportunity to engage directly with local operational staff on their key areas of concern. "If the dry conditions continue, we will hold these meetings more frequently".

Most days Travis is out and about the Burdekin scheme but regardless of location, he is always looking for new ways to ensure SunWater can meet required service levels at all times – during both wet or dry seasons.

SunWater Service Manager Travis Richards

(R-L) SunWater Service Manager, Travis Richards discussing scheme operations with Burdekin River Irrigators Ltd Chairman, Mario Barbagallo

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