Rural Aid's first desalinator descends on Tenterfield

Rural Aid's Charles Alder hands over the aid organisation's first desalination plant to Mayor Peter Petty. Behind them are (from left) John McKinnie from Salt Free Desalination, driver Blair Johnston of Hancock Farming Enterprises, and council staff, Tamai Davidson, Gillian Marchant and Melissa Blum.

Rural Aid's Charles Alder hands over the aid organisation's first desalination plant to Mayor Peter Petty. Behind them are (from left) John McKinnie from Salt Free Desalination, driver Blair Johnston of Hancock Farming Enterprises, and council staff, Tamai Davidson, Gillian Marchant and Melissa Blum.

We may be a long way from seawater but Tenterfield Shire Council is now proudly in possession of a portable reverse-osmosis filtration plant that will extend the life of the Shirley Park Bore.

The $120,000 plant, which arrived at Tenterfield Dam on Tuesday atop a truck that has transported thousands of hay bales to drought-stricken farmers, is on loan to council for as long as necessary, Rural Aid CEO Charles Alder said.

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He said it's the first of this type of assistance Rural Aid has provided, but there are several councils entering dire straits that he expects to put up their hands soon. The plants are assembled in Australia to order, with an eight-week lead time.

The unit finally enters the gates of Tenterfield Dam after a long trip from Melbourne where, perversely enough, driver Blair Johnston of Hancock Farming Enterprises had to contend with rain for the first couple of hundred kilometres.

The unit finally enters the gates of Tenterfield Dam after a long trip from Melbourne where, perversely enough, driver Blair Johnston of Hancock Farming Enterprises had to contend with rain for the first couple of hundred kilometres.

Rural Aid receives no government funding, instead relying on corporate and individual donations.

"We've delivered 66,000 hay bales in the past 12 months to keep livestock alive, but a town can't survive without water," Mr Alder said.

From his Australia-wide perspective, he said the stretch from Tamworth to the Queensland border seems to be the most drought-affected.

More than 9000 farmers have sought assistance with the organisation which is now also extending its help to community groups who are suffering as a consequence, be it the local footy club who can't afford jerseys or insurance, or a childcare centre needing transport.

The council crane offloads the unit for installation on a pad near the water treatment plant at Tenterfield Dam.

The council crane offloads the unit for installation on a pad near the water treatment plant at Tenterfield Dam.

It is also running a Farm and Community Rescue service where a team of volunteers descends and does whatever infrastructural work is needed, be it painting, repairs or anything else.

"When they get tired, farmers don't have the time to contribute to their community," Mr Alder said.

Danny Potter, John Edmonds (on digger) and Aaron Long prepare to redirect plumbing from Shirley Park bore to the new desalinator.

Danny Potter, John Edmonds (on digger) and Aaron Long prepare to redirect plumbing from Shirley Park bore to the new desalinator.

He was next off to meet with Southern Downs Regional Council, but not before seeing the desalination plant offloaded into council's hands. Passersby may see the bore's input to the dam cease, as all the water transfer will now be done underground.

The inlet pipe will be now directed to the new plant, with the filtered water then sent directly to a pond in the treatment plant.

This will not only virtually eliminate losses to evaporation, but the new setup's moves to manage pressure in the bore will limit pressure changes, so that the bore may be able to operate continuously rather than the on/off process of late.

Here's some footage to the unit's arrival at the dam, courtesy of Peter Harris and Peter Reid...

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