/First half written on 25/1/2009/
At 3:30am today a small leak in a 50-year-old pipe in St Georges Rd Melbourne was reported which erupted into a 40 meter high fountain two hours later.
The approach that even the least handy-person would take would be to turn the water off, however Melbourne Water didn’t shut down the water main until hours later. During this time dismayed locals looked on, trying to save what water they could from the flooded roadway.
A Melbourne Water spokesman defended the decision not to shut off the pipe, which supplies water to over a thousand homes and businesses in the western suburbs, saying that "In order to fix it we have to shut it down so to avoid leaving people without water we have to first isolate this part of the system.” [heraldsun.com.au]
Victoria’s Water Minister Tim Holding is yet to comment on why the sparse resource was allowed to leak for so long and exactly how much water has been lost to the Melbourne storm water system. However, Upper House Opposition Leader David Davis speculated that the recent efforts by households to reduce water consumption have been undone as a result of the “debacle”. [heraldsun.com.au]
/The following was written on 28/1/2009/
Heat has been cited as the cause of the burst. [MX Newspaper, Jan 28 2009]
Does the delay to warn residents of a water cut-off mean that Victoria’s water protocols need to be changed? In a state that is suffering from its driest January in 77 years [Source: http://is.gd/hv4R] and as Melbourne swelters through its hottest week in 100 years [Source: theage.com.au], surely common sense would prevail and the pipe would be switched off?
Today (28/1) another burst in the same area was caused by a car which crashed into a fire hydrant. Thousands of litres of water were lost again in a 5m high spray [MX Newspaper, Jan 28 2009]. This time 63 homes were affected.
If providing notice to residents and shop owners is required, maybe water companies should reduce the water pressure after a burst so that not so much water is lost? Also, water companies should try to reclaim water that would otherwise be lost, maybe with a stand-by crew that can try to rescue at least some water from a leak. The state’s water system would also benefit from more water control gates so water pipe closures would affect a smaller number of people; similar upgrades have been applied successfully to Victoria’s electricity grid in past years.
Melbourne’s dam levels are presently at 33.8%, a drop of 3.9% from the same time last year. With no rainfall registered in Melbourne catchment areas so far this month, maybe it really is time for the government to review its water protocols. [Statistics from the Melbourne water website, last updated on the 23rd of January.]
/All statistics correct at time of writing./