Sporting complex water harvesting at a regional sporting venue

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5.4 Social Benefits

Healthy communities through access to quality sports grounds

The project provides certainty in water supply to the facility during times when potable water is being rationed through water restrictions as occurred during the last and most recent drought period.

Extreme drought affected south eastern Australia from 2001 to 2005 and then re-entered drought in 2006 with the drought breaking dramatically in 2010 with widespread flooding. During this time many communities in inland NSW experienced difficulties in providing fit for purpose sports grounds Ref: 2011 Australian State of the Environment Committee; downloaded from climate.html#ss3-1-1.
This has an important impact on the health of communities as there is a growing body of evidence that shows an increasing likelihood of injuries on sports grounds suffering exposure to low rainfall and high evaporation rates (Townsend, Mahoney, Jones, Ball, Salmon and Finch [2003], “Too hot to trot? exploring potential links between climate change, physical activity and health” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Volume 6, Issue 3: Pages 260-265).
In Dubbo there were two factors affecting access to water for playing field irrigation at the Apex Oval precinct. Ground staff were using potable water to irrigate the complex. However in the extreme dry periods when Dubbo was not on water restrictions, Dubbo City Council’s water supply function often required staff to substantially reduce irrigation in order that reservoirs could refill overnight and potable water would be of a sufficient supply available for residential and commercial use. This led to the recreation bore network supplying the Apex Oval precinct. However the bore supply suffered from poor pressure due to the distance bore water travelled. In addition there were a large number of assets being irrigated from the one bore which meant the Apex Oval East Dubbo precinct had to be watered during the day further reducing the efficiency of irrigation.
The combination of inefficient irrigation with low rainfall and high evaporation rates led to poor quality fields for one of the Dubbo region’s major sports – junior and senior Rugby League and Union.
It should also be noted that western communities such as Dubbo have poor health statistics and Indigenous communities of the region more so. The statistics of the Western Region office of Sport and Recreation NSW show that rugby league is the most popular sport in the region for Indigenous boys as well as being a major sport for the general population. Any loss of access to rugby league facilities can have significant impact on the overall health of Dubbo’s population and particularly the Indigenous community.
The stormwater harvesting scheme provides Dubbo City Council with an alternative supply (stormwater) and also flexibility within the existing bore network to irrigate more efficiently. Even during drought periods the quality of Dubbo City Council’s Rugby League/ Union/ Soccer regional complex can be maintained for both junior and senior sport.


The actual construction project created employment for 45 people. A number of local businesses were engaged on the project either as the main contractor for the installation of the tank or as subcontractors to Council and the playing surface contractor. The range of businesses included earthworks, irrigation supply and install, construction of the tank, electrical contracting, supply of sands and gravel, supply of turf, engineering design and geotechnical investigation (see table 4 for details).

There is another economic benefit from the Apex Oval stormwater harvesting project beyond the economic benefit of construction - the attraction of regional sporting events. The ability to provide certainty in regard to the provision of quality playing surface, grandstand and four fields allows Dubbo to target competitions and tournaments that attract visitors from across NSW. Already Dubbo is hosting the junior girls under 14 and 16 NSW representative football tournament.
Economic analysis undertaken by the Western Research Institute shows that the average day- trip visitor to Dubbo spends approximately $140 per trip. This expenditure is distributed as follows:

Shopping – 39.4%

Food and drink – 26.3% Fuel – 26%

Transport fares – 3.5% Entertainment – 1.4% Other – 3.1%

Domestic overnight visitors are also estimated to spend $142 per night. This expenditure is as follows:

Shopping – 9.8% Accommodation – 28.4% Food and drink – 28.7% Fuel – 19.9%

Airfares – 4.5%

Other Transport fares – 1.3% Entertainment – 4.5% Packages – 0.6%

Other – 2.4%
The impact on the economy of one regional sporting event that fills the Apex Oval grandstand (capacity 1300) as a result of the Apex Oval Stormwater Harvesting project would bring $182,000 into the economy of Dubbo.

5.5 Summary of outcomes

Council has successfully completed construction of a 10ML stormwater harvesting system underneath the playing surface of Apex Oval. This is smaller than original proposal but still within the most efficient range of tank size for the facility as determined by an independent feasibility study. In this regard the project should be considered successful in meeting the criteria of harvesting stormwater in a cost effective manner for the irrigation of Apex Oval/ East Dubbo Sporting Complex.

The annual average total of stormwater harvested is 38.8 ML.
The project also met its environmental objectives in regard to the reduction of pollutants reaching the Macquarie River and the reduction of the carbon footprint of the Apex Oval facility.
The Stormwater Harvesting project has provided significant high profile education opportunities – the pinnacle being a tour of the facility during the NSW Local Government Association Conference by conference delegates. TAFE groups, school groups, community groups Central West Catchment Management Authority based groups all have taken advantage of touring and understanding the facility. There is an ongoing education campaign promoting the prevention of pollution via stormwater infrastructure with a particular focus on the Apex Oval catchment.
The playing surface has been renewed to an international sand based playing surface with play allowed to take place for the 2013 winter season.


Groundwater and rainfall

The presence of the old tip was a known constraint through preliminary assessment of the site and through previous geotechnical investigations. However the extent of groundwater was increased as a result of above average rainfall. This led to an increase in costs and significant delays. The lesson to be learnt is to allow for greater weather delays in project timetables

That there had been significant drought from 2001 to December 2010 certainly would not have allowed the extent of groundwater under Apex Oval to be analysed appropriately for a La Nina year of above average rainfall.
The only means to address this issue would be for longer term studies be undertaken of a potential site prior to applying for grants.

Material Increases

The time between using industry estimates to apply for funding, obtaining grant funding and then going to the market to purchase proved problematic for the Apex Oval Stormwater Harvesting Project in regard to the cost of the storage structure. This required an additional

$300,000 to be committed to the project by Council above the budget identified in the funding agreement.
A potential solution is for Council and other future grant applicants to have sufficient funds to act as a buffer for material price increases. This would potentially be developed when undertaking quantity cost analyses of elements to be constructed and through using an overtly conservative approach to such analysis.


Council engaged with specific stakeholder groups very early in the project and continued this process throughout. This has proven invaluable throughout the project and particularly when the decision was made to cancel the 2012 winter season at Apex in December 2011. Sporting bodies had plenty of notice and were able to plan for the coming season.

Council had a neighbours’ information session at night prior to the commencement of construction. This provided Council with the opportunity to explain how the project would be run and how Council was managing the old waste.
The important part of that session was to establish contacts for residents if they had concerns about the project as it was being undertaken – i.e. dust, vibration. They could talk directly to the responsible Council officer.
The meeting also identified how Council was to communicate with neighbouring residents as a whole. This was undertaken twice where work was undertaken on a Sunday and Council sought to understand whether any residents objected. No objections were raised and positive feedback was received from a number of residents with regard to hastening the project to completion.


From late November 2012 Council enters the normal operation, maintenance and testing phase. In regards to quality management of stored water and its use in accordance with the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling: Managing Health and Environmental Risks (Phase 2) Stormwater Harvesting and Reuse (July 2009) - this is part of the project that shall be ongoing.

Initial analysis has shown that there is likely not be a need for filtration beyond that provided by the GPT. However detailed data of stored and irrigated water is required to develop an accurate scheme management plan. This shall take place over the months of November & December 2012 to determine what level of water quality is produced by the harvesting system over time.
Should testing show a need for higher order filtration and treatment the irrigation network has the capacity and capability to have a filtration system added into it. The site for the filtration system shall be built into a redundant canteen building that is to the south of the Apex Oval Grandstand. The potential additional cost of filtration has been budgeted for by Council’s Sporting Facilities Function.

Figure 9: This shows the site of a potentially required filtration unit. Underground pipes connecting the site to the tank are in place as a contingency measure.
The Apex Oval East Dubbo site is being programmed for utilisation by sporting groups from January 2013. In addition Council is lobbying sporting bodies to hold significant events over coming months at the Apex Oval facility such as the NRL City – Country fixture.
With regard to long term maintenance Council has incorporated the constructed elements into the Sporting Facilities 20 year asset plan. This plan specifies the funding to be allocated to programmed maintenance works (rather than operational) on the stormwater harvesting infrastructure. This ensures that the performance of the system is maintained over its life cycle.

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