Rous County Council – WIOA 2022 Team of the Year
During February 2022 Lismore and its surrounds were decimated by unprecedented flooding. Over 800mm of rain fell in the catchment over a 24-hour period, with more rain causing a second overtopping of the towns levee banks just one month later. Homes and businesses were destroyed, roads were washed away, and thousands were forced to evacuate as record flood levels flowed through the town, almost 2m above any previously recorded data. The clean-up in the following weeks was immense with the streets being piled with mud, rubble, and debris.
Damage to household fixtures and distribution infrastructure saw water consumption skyrocket, and the deluge caused raw water sources to become almost untreatable. River pump stations were inundated and destroyed, while the two major supplies of Rocky and Emigrant Creek Dams were cut off by damaged roadways, landslides, and torrents of water where bridges once were. Both main sources saw dam safety emergency plans enacted, and downstream evacuations put in place as a precaution, while dam alert levels rose to almost double previously recorded heights.
Loss of water supply would have compounded an already worsening situation by floating and scouring pipework, causing further damage and disruption to the impending clean-up process. While boil water options were unactionable due to the lack of power in most regions for multiple days, along with the fact that many households had lost everything they owned including stoves, kettles or even cups to fill once water had cooled.
Maintaining supply was made priority, as council instated an emergency management team, pooling together what staff were able to be contacted. Reservoir levels were juggled with dwindling supply as the treatment team struggled with water quality well outside the treatment plants designed capabilities and distribution operators dealt with numerous mains breaks.
Without the efforts of those involved the community would have experienced a massive health crisis due to lack of safe drinking water (and no access to provide bottled water due to inundation and damage to roads for weeks following), not to mention the delays in the clean-up process raising disease concerns as waste and sludge would have been left to fester.
After the devastation, much of the region rallied together to quickly rebuild with those affected. Keeping a strong push was key for the mental health of many in the community, as morale of helpers and support coming from every direction lifted those who had lost everything or been through hell during the initial rise of the floodwaters.
The ability to hose out houses and wash down streets as well as have hot cups of tea, freshly washed clothes and bedding or a warm shower at the end of a mud-laden day were a small comfort availed to those dealing with absolute devastation.
With a common goal of supporting the community in the best way they were able, staff came together with a sense of pride and purpose, realising the importance of our role in such a time of need that will not soon be forgotten.