Wolfdene Dam

Author : J. V. Hodgkinson F. C. A. Chartered Accountant : Aug 2006 to November 2013    

The principal thrust of this website is
FLOOD PROOFING BRISBANE from damaging floods to the point of extinction. MITIGATING flooding in Ipswich and Gympie. Putting REAL MEANING into "Drought proofing SEQ" and ensuring our water supplies by natural means well into the future

This is my review based on official statistics and documents. It is done in conjunction with Ron McMah, grazier of Imbil and Trevor Herse, retired of the Gold Coast




This statement is the Ministerial Statement made at the time of the cancellation of the Wolffdene Dam.jpg (145784 bytes)Wolffdene Dam. Notice the assurances given at that time. Those assurances were not met due to a time of normal "uncommon event" activity of 3.7 years between these dam filling events not being recognized.

The attitude publically expressed by our leader in charge for most of the time was "Why would I bother about water? We had plenty of it." The random activity of "Uncommon events" was not observed. It is outlined in the heading above, that most occurred below the 3.7 year average which means that those above can be up to 11 years. 

We have also witnessed the severity of these events that can occur. My warnings to those in charge fell on deaf ears.



This section is designed to draw attention to the decision making process of our Leaders on the entering into and emergence from a rare period of "uncommon events" in the life of the Wivenhoe Dam. In my view they are quite similar, one being made in a time of "plenty" and the other when the "plenty" was withdrawn. To this we now add the inevitable return of "Uncommon events" with a vengeance. 300 per cent of the Wivenhoe Dam capacity went over the dam wall with that dam unable to cope with major flooding. Marshalling of our water supply escaped the ability of those in charge to recognize the essential elements of the problem.

Once the myth of the "worst drought in 100 years " is dealt with and uncommon events are understood, the decision to cancel the Wolfdene Dam comes into stark perspective.

The Dam was cancelled in early 1990 shortly after a change of Government in December 1989. The Wivenhoe dam had been in operation for four years. 

Wivenhoe was clearly a storage and flood mitigation dam for the Wivenhoe Sum 1911 06.jpg (170052 bytes) Somerset and was positioned below the Somerset on the Stanley and Brisbane Rivers junction. The chart outlining the Summer Rains for the last 96 years supports this contention. In its own right it provides little to our water supply except for random "uncommon events". The Somerset has a much more efficient catchment although much smaller in capacity and catchment area. Nevertheless, with higher rainfall, it provides most of our water supply. Reference the "Wivenhoe Dam" button .

The Water Engineers and Hydrologists were obviously aware of this. The Courier Mail has made mention of a Key advisor on water being a world class Engineer and Hydrologist involved in research and recommendations for all of the State's major Dams including the Wivenhoe and Wolfdene dams. 

The Government had purchased all of the land required for the Wolfdene dam. In dispute were a few blocks on the thirty year mark. Reference is direct contact with the Dam Manager at that time though our common interest in school activities. He and his Chairman were removed shortly after the New Government took over.

I understand the Wolfdene Dam was to be a major Dam in the category of the Wivenhoe as described in the pages of the Courier Mail. It was to be located just south of Brisbane.

Wolfdene dam drips.jpg (272794 bytes) The Gold Coast Bulletin leaves one in no doubt as to their position on the cancellation of the Dam, the reasons why and who they believe is responsible. The Bulletin appeared unaware that the people mentioned went to the 1989 election on the basis of cancellation of the Wolfdene Dam and supported by the Liberal Party.

The Gold Coast Bulletin has arrived at a conclusion that they lost control of their water asset, the Hinze Dam, because of the lack of planning of the people mentioned. The Bulletin appeared unaware of uncommon events in the same way that our current leaders are. The past decision makers mentioned on their front page appear to have overlooked, or have been completely unaware of the implications of the natural occurrence of uncommon events of 1988 and 1989 referred to later in this section.

To add further balance to this subject, SEQWater operations manager drew our attention to four uncommon events Summer Rain Courier Mail 10 02 7.jpg (371046 bytes) occurring in the years 1986 to 2001. 1986 was the start of the Wivenhoe and the inflows of 1992 and 1999 were readily identified by him. See the last three paragraphs.

In  1988 in the single month of April, a non-summer month, a high Rainfall of 440mm occurred. Being a non-summer month is rare in itself. It was followed by a similar event in April of 1989 of 564mm. These events were sufficiently large to fill the dams. At that early stage the Dams were full and overflowing.

The last of these two events were seven months before the election.

In retrospect, this very high level may have been sufficient to draw incorrect conclusions against the advice of the Engineers and Hydrologists. This advice must necessarily have been present when the land purchase was proceeding.

Wivenhoe dam levels red line.jpg (112485 bytes)This was followed up by the large inflows of 1992, 1996 and 1999 which filled the dams and buried the view of heavy and steady population growth's requirements and the implications of the cancellation of the Wolfdene dam.


The Wolfdene Dam cancellation is central to - entering into and emergence from a rare period of "uncommon events"

We have seen that the cancellation of the Wolfdene dam has denied us the provision of water except on a restricted basis. The decision relates to the entering this rare period of 5 uncommon events in 12 years.

We are now seeing that as we emerge from this period, our current leaders attribute it to a "drought" with all the decisions being made on this basis. 

A little further down the track people in SEQ realised that with the Backup of Wolfdene Dam most of the damage in Brisbane and Ipswich could have been avoided by pre-release in the Wivenhoe.

The solution lies in the harnessing of the surpluses from these uncommon events with further spare capacity to deal with both equations.

This web-site provides the solution.

Advice offered to Deputy Premier Bligh and the relevant Minister Hinchcliffe

I offered the following advice to these Ministers. It was not prophetic. It was not climate change. It was straightforward mathematics.

The following is an extract from my letter to Hon. Mr S. Hinchcliffe, the then Minister for Infrastructure and Planning, sent on the 23rd April 2009 three weeks before the May 2009 "uncommon event".  The alert to the Minister followed a meeting with him in January 2009. The meeting had the support of the senior policy advisor to the PM (Kevin Rudd).

"The way I see it, the difficulty for you and all who support the Traveston is that on the mathematical certainty of the return of the “uncommon events” the dams will overflow. That by itself should have people in SEQ questioning if those in charge understand what they are doing. Historically there has been 11 “uncommon events” within 1 year of each other (April 1988 & April 1989 for example) and there will be a tremendous loss of water over spillways with full dams. In my view justification of the Traveston will be under severe stress and storage in the Borumba Dam together with its additional yield, vindicated."  

The following is an extract from my letter to Premier Anna Bligh on the 18th January 2008 when dealing with the Traveston Dam project.

 Uncommon events” proved to be the lifeblood of SEQ from 1986 to 2001, filling the Dams to overflow four times and covering expanding population requirements with ease. Although the official records disclose there was an absence of “uncommon events” between 1974 and 1988, there were five such events in the short life of the Wivenhoe Dam (1988 to 1999 and a topup in Feb.2001). A high proportion of those events flowed over the spillway and were lost because of lack of storage.

They will return. When the uncommon events return, we will not have sufficient storage space to retain the surplus water from them, except for the first one. Most of that water from uncommon events would now be lost whereas they were our main provider for the 16 years to 2001.

End quote

The Traveston is now historical but the alert to Minister Hinchcliffe and the use of the Borumba Dam as its replacement is still valid. The alert to Premier Anna Bligh was on the same subject. This procedure eliminates the planned three desalination plants and avoids most of the construction and ongoing costs. Further reading Borumba Dam Proposal and Borumba Dam Appendix