Lake Moondarra you still float my boat!
Since the early days when John Campbell Miles' horse, Hard Times, drank from a soak on the Leichhardt River, water has been at the forefront of people's minds and critical to the growth and success of Mount Isa.
Rifle Creek Dam was Mount Isa's first dam, constructed by Mount Isa Mines in 1929, designed to service the growing community and mining activities in the area.
However, Mount Isa's population boom after World War II and an increase in the demand for infrastructure and essential services in the town soon saw the need to secure a more reliable, long-term sustainable water solution.
At the time, questioning the permanency of the new mining town, the Queensland Government was reluctant to invest state funds when the community petitioned for vital infrastructure including a new water resource.
Fortunately Mount Isa Mines secured an excellent water supply, located around 20 kilometres north of Mount Isa, for the growing community by damming the Leichhardt River. Construction was completed in 1958 at a cost of £1.7 million which was a significant investment at the time.
Originally referred to as the Leichhardt River Dam, it was officially named Lake Moondarra in 1961, following a completion open to Mount Isa school children to choose a name for the dam. Lake Moondarra was said to be the aboriginal name meaning "plenty rain" and also "thunder".
While primarily a water source, the lake soon became a haven for recreational activity including swimming, water skiing and power boating. Locals flocked to the new dam to sit under the shady palm and mango trees lining a sandy beach complete with floating pontoons and a Life Saving Club at Transport Bay.
In 1971, the primary spillway was raised by the addition of a reinforced concrete weir along the crest increasing the dams supply volume. With a total capacity of 103,000 ML Lake Moondarra was the largest water scheme in Australia to be financed by private enterprise.
Glencore Queensland Metals General Manager − Isa Processing Richard Harvey says that while Lake Moondarra continues to be the main potable water supply for Mount Isa and surrounding industries, the operating arrangements for the pumping Infrastructure recently changed.
"While the dam and associated spillways are still owned by Mount Isa Mines, who hold the Resource Operations License for the lake under the Gulf Resource Operations Plan, the Mount Isa Water Board (MIWB) is the Resource Operations Provider," says Richard.
"As a Category 1 Water Authority MIWB operate as a commercialised statutory authority responsible for the sale and supply of bulk water to industrial customers and the Mount Isa City Council."
"They are also responsible for maintaining public amenities like toilet facilities, boat ramps, gardens, electric and wood BBQs, a children's play area, lighting and waste collection facilities at the dam."
"Previously Mount Isa Mines had an agreement with the MIWB in relation to the operation and maintenance of their assets but they advised of their intention to terminate this agreement on 30 June last year."
"We provided a high level of support to MIWB to assist their transition to the new arrangements and contract providers."
"Mount Isa Mines is really proud to have been able to provide this critical asset which is important for the future of our community," Richard says.