Sprinkler systems potential cause of tree deaths DWER warns as BORR continues to extract groundwater unimpeded

Craig DuncanSouth Western Times
Construction of the Bunbury Outer Ring Road has remained a controversial issue in the Gelorup community.
Camera IconConstruction of the Bunbury Outer Ring Road has remained a controversial issue in the Gelorup community. Credit: Craig Duncan

A mass tree die off is ravaging a South West community, with officials pointing the blame at sprinkler systems as a potential cause of the disaster.

The Shire of Capel announced last week it working with the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation to investigate ongoing water bore issues and tree decline in the Gelorup suburb.

Residents have long speculated issues with the groundwater are likely from the construction of the Bunbury Outer Ring Road.

According to DWER, however, there is no evidence to support these speculations.

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A spokesperson for DWER said based on scientific evidence and monitoring data collected to date at the site, there was no suggestion of any link between the BORR and tree decline.

Groundwater issues began in the community in late December, with the shire announcing it would conduct investigations with DWER in February to identify the source.

The following month the Times reported residents in Gelorup were now seeing trees die in their rural properties.

In the weeks prior to the shire announcing its investigation, president Doug Kitchen said the shire had continued to capture information from Gelorup residents on behalf of DWER.

“DWER has advised the shire that the likely cause of the groundwater declines in shallow bores is due to a range of climate factors including lower rainfall and earlier than usual watering of gardens,” he said.

In a community release responding to frequently asked questions about the Gelorup groundwater supply, DWER supplied several options to help with water supply issues for residents.

Solutions include reducing the frequency and duration of irrigation, adhering to sprinkler regulations between September and May and coordinating with neighbours to stagger irrigation demands.

“Production bores and monitoring bores currently being used by the BORR project have been installed in compliance with groundwater well installation and licensing conditions, using qualified and licensed drillers,” a Main Roads spokesperson said.

“To reduce the dependency on groundwater and in response to community concerns, Main Roads has commenced using surface water from a local quarry for construction activities.”

However, one resident told the Times he had been recording the water use of Main Roads’ bore along Bussell Highway from March 14 to March 30.

The bore in question is being used to extract groundwater for use as dust suppression in the construction of the BORR.

In a period of about two weeks, the resident said the Main Roads bore extracted 4707 kilolitres of groundwater.

Reviewing the Water Register, available from maps.water.wa.gov.au, the average allocated allowance for a licence for a residency within the Gelorup area is about 1500 kilolitres.

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