WaterNSW: Towns running dry rumours are 'scaremongering', councils say

HOT AND DRY: The outskirts of Dubbo are a stark reminder of the worst drought on record. Photo: AMY MCINTYRE
HOT AND DRY: The outskirts of Dubbo are a stark reminder of the worst drought on record. Photo: AMY MCINTYRE

REPORTS that some Central West council areas could run out of water within two months are nothing more than scaremongering, one council says.

Reports on the weekend said Dubbo, Nyngan, Narromine and Cobar would run out of water by November, with Forbes, Cowra and Parkes to be dry by March 2020.

The data was based off WaterNSW modelling and was for worst-case scenario which included no significant rainfall or government intervention.

Australian Community Media (ACM) also understands that the report only took into account surface water such as rivers and dams, and did not include ground water and bores.

ACM contacted all councils mentioned in the story and none agreed with the timeline given for running out of water.

A WaterNSW spokesman told ACM on Monday that projects to extend the availability of water from Burrendong Dam to communities in the Macquarie valley were well advanced.

"WaterNSW forecasts indicate that without these projects, and with no inflows into the dam, surface water supply to communities in the Macquarie valley would be insecure by November 2019," he said.

"However, works underway such as temporarily raising Warren weir, and preparing to pump the remnant storage left in Burrendong Dam, pushes that worst-case scenario into 2020."

Dubbo's water supply

Water saving measures and supplementary bore supply will sustain the water supply until mid-2020 in the absence of rain, Dubbo Regional Council (DRC) chief executive officer Michael McMahon said.

"DRC understands that the NSW Government's water modelling shows extreme conditions over the coming season without rainfall relief, modelling that predicts the very real risk of Burrendong Dam no longer being a water source during this drought," he said.

"In the absence of rainfall, if Burrendong Dam does get to a level where water can no longer flow freely from the dam, pumps will be used to access remaining water located in deep storage within the dam, as well as transferring water from outlying dams into Burrendong Dam.

"Additionally, DRC understands that the NSW Government is implementing measures downstream of the Macquarie River to dam remaining water within the river."

Forbes' water supply

Forbes Shire Council general manager Steve Loane said a report that the town's water supply would run out by March was "scaremongering".

"Claims are unfounded as Forbes' situation hasn't been fully considered in the article," he said of the weekend's media reports.

"The town has access to supply from the Lachlan River and three bores.

"Forbes currently sits on 100 per cent allocation from the Lachlan River by WaterNSW, if the situation declines we will look to increasing the level of restrictions."

Mr Loane said Forbes was in a "very fortunate situation" and careful "careful usage from residents ensures demand doesn't exceed our supply".

Narromine's water supply

Narromine's town water supply was "not in any dire situation at all", mayor Craig Davies told the Narromine News.

He said council was "managing our water resources very proactively" and they they were being "very cautious".

"Certainly our river water that's gone for the moment, we don't have an allocation left, but we've got plenty of bore water," he said.

Water security in Narromine was given a $2 million boost by the NSW Government in June, to open a new bore and filtration system, which Cr Davis said would add to the security of the town's water supply.

Nyngan's water supply

Bogan Shire Council has been assured that town water supplies from the Macquarie River would continue until at least the middle of 2020, mayor Ray Donald said.

"If there are no significant inflows into Burrendong Dam by the middle of next year then there is a real possibility that the Macquarie could stop flowing, affecting Nyngan's water supply," he said.

Cr Donald said to address this council will investigate potential bore sites to the east of Nyngan.

"Other funded works include the installation of a temporary weir to the south of the main town water supply weir to make the weir pool smaller and limit evaporation losses as well as repairs to the Albert Priest Channel to save water currently being lost through seepage," he said.

"The NSW Department of Public Works, which was commissioned to design and completely oversee construction of Nyngan's off-river storage is currently conducting water tightness testing at the storage and is working with Council and Water NSW to address larger than expected water losses from the storage.

"It is the intention of Council and Water NSW to have the storage full before the Macquarie stops flowing to provide Nyngan with reserves of emergency water for as long as possible."

Cowra's water supply

By Kelsey Sutor

Cowra Council mayor Bill West said WaterNSW's report that the town would run out of water in six months was "very disappointing".

He said council had not received any notification from WaterNSW about this and the information was contrary to last month's NSW Government water allocation statement which indicated water would still be available to Cowra for urban, domestic and stock use through Wyangala Dam.

"The fact that we are going to run out of water in six months is not correct," Cr West said.

"My understanding is the dam will get to a level where it will be severely restricted but there will be an allowance for urban water supply beyond that.

"So when they say the dam is empty I think that means empty for irrigation as opposed to no water at all."

There are no water restrictions currently in place for Cowra, Cr West said he would act on advice from WaterNSW.

"We will react immediately when we have information from WaterNSW as opposed to announcements in metropolitan media," Cr West said.

"I think it needs to be pointed out ... we have a licence, an allocation, and that allocation and that licence is determined by restrictions that can be placed upon us by WaterNSW, they are the authority, and they own the water."

Cobar and Parkes councils were also contacted for this story but were unable to provide a response before deadline.

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This story Towns running dry alerts are 'scaremongering', councils say first appeared on Cowra Guardian.