NSW premier open to fast-tracking dams

NSW rivers and dams are running dry, threatening drinking water supplies, according to projections.
NSW rivers and dams are running dry, threatening drinking water supplies, according to projections.

The NSW premier won't rule out curtailing planning processes to fast-track dam construction because of the "exceptional" circumstances caused by the drought.

Gladys Berejiklian says she is willing to look at her deputy's proposal to ease planning processes for building dams to ensure critical water infrastructure is built in NSW.

"I would support any proposals which would further secure water moving forward," Ms Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

"We will look at every proposal on its merits but we also need to understand these are exceptional circumstances."

Deputy Premier John Barilaro made the call to boost water resources after WaterNSW projections revealed that Dubbo could lose water was early as November when the Macquarie River is forecast to run dry.

"We need to not spend years consulting on the environmental impact and how communities feel about where we put dams," the Nationals leader told The Daily Telegraph.

"We need to get a bulldozer into the soil and build them. If we don't ease the planning requirements nothing will get built for years and years and nothing is more urgent."

Mr Barilaro also challenged the state coalition government to reconsider its commitment to budget surpluses in favour of building dams, saying the drought crisis required tough decisions.

The WaterNSW data, seen by AAP, painted the worst case for several regional towns if no significant rain falls in coming months.

The Macquarie River, which supplies water to Dubbo, Cobar, Nyngan and Narromine, receives an average inflow of 1448GL annually but in the past two years has seen just 97GL enter the river system.

Australia's longest river, the Murray, which is part of the Murray Darling Basin plan, has also been severely affected, with 901GL of water entering the system in the past 12 months compared with its annual average of 5000GL.

Menindee Lakes, which is a source of flows for the Lower Darling, received just six gigalitres of water in the past year. It's annual inflow average is 1387GL.

The lakes sit within the town of Menindee, which experienced mass fish deaths along the Darling River last summer.

The Lachlan River, which runs through the state's central west, is projected to run dry by March 2020, leaving the towns of Forbes, Cowra and Parkes without water.

The river is the fourth longest in Australia and receives an average of 1212GL of water a year but in the past year recorded inflows of just 107GL.

A group of rivers that straddle the NSW and Queensland border and supply water to Boggabilla, Ashford and Goondiwindi received just 17GL of inflows in the past year compared with an annual average of 1000GL.

WaterNSW predicts the border rivers could run dry by September 2020.

Australian Associated Press