$4bn demand for new dams as towns risk running dry
EXCLUSIVE: The NSW government has asked the Commonwealth to "dust off the chequebook" and contribute federal funds to almost $4 billion in long-term water projects in a bid to "share the burden" of the crippling drought.
Regional centres including Tamworth, Dubbo and Bathurst are all at risk of running out of water in the next 12 months if the drought - currently impacting 97 per cent of the state - continues.
While the State Government is desperately trying to ensure does not happen through emergency short term measures, it has now turned to the Federal Government to support long term water storage projects though its Commonwealth Governments National Infrastructure Development Fund
NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey wrote to Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack on Tuesday outlining the state's priority projects including $1.3 billion to raise the Pindari Dam, $756 million for an inter-basin transfer upstream of Chaffey Dam, $484 million for a new Dungowan Dam in Tamworth and $355 million for a new dam in the Northern Tablelands.
Ms Pavey said it was time for the projects investigated by WaterNSW to become reality if the state is to "survive and thrive in the future".
"As climate extremes bite with hotter longer droughts punctuated by big floods it is absolutely critical that we build water conservation measures that can cope with these extremes," she said.
Ms Pavey said new and larger dams, including underground dams, would mean more water could be stored during floods actually increase river flows during droughts helping farmers, industry and native fish.
The fresh demands from the state government follow a Communique from The Daily Telegraph's Bush Summit held last month, calling for the prioritisation of new water infrastructure projects immediately.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the state needed to be "bold" in building water infrastructure.
"That is the lesson of this drought. If we don't do it now, we never will," he said.
Mr Barilaro said there were "serious concerns" about the availability of water supply in regional NSW.
Across regional NSW towns are being placed on extreme water restrictions.
Tamworth residents are on Level 4 restrictions meaning they can't fill pools, wash cars or water gardens, and Bathurst residents will be placed onto the same level in October.
The Chifley Dam which provides town water to Bathurst is at 42 per cent - almost half as much as the same time two years ago.
Meanwhile Dubbo has just gone on to Level 2 restrictions, as the Burrendong Dam water level dropped to just five per cent.
The NSW Government has already committed $30 million to investigate new ground water for Dubbo, and has a $15 million emergency fund to cart water to struggling small towns.