The next 40 years of water security in the Hunter has been outlined in a new plan.
Hunter Water and the NSW Government have worked together for more than three years undertaking comprehensive investigations and assessment, underpinned by in-depth engagement with the community, to ensure the growing Lower Hunter region has the water security it needs for a prosperous future.
Minister for Water, Property and Housing, Melinda Pavey, said the draft Lower Hunter Water Security Plan is a foundation for the economic development of Greater Newcastle and the Hunter while supporting the liveability of the community, setting out a pathway until 2060.
“Water is fundamental to the region’s growth, prosperity and quality of life. I’m proud of the comprehensive work involving a whole-of-government approach to ensure we have a sustainable and resilient water supply for the Lower Hunter, now and for future generations.”
Hunter Water Managing Director, Darren Cleary, said the recent drought has highlighted the vulnerability of the water supply system.
“The recent drought rewrote the rules for many communities around New South Wales. New insights gained during the drought have confirmed that our region is more vulnerable to drought than we previously thought. The Hunter’s storages can go from typical operating levels to critical in less than three years. If drought were to continue beyond this, our region could run out of water.”
“Our community has told us they expect a reliable water supply that can withstand drought, reaffirming our view that it is unacceptable for a region the size of the Lower Hunter to face the risk of running out of water. A key objective of our future planning is to make sure we can supply enough water to meet the demand from households, businesses and industrial customers, while underpinning regional prosperity and nurturing the unique Lower Hunter environment.”
A core part of the plan is further investment in water conservation programs, network leakage reduction, recycled water and stormwater harvesting for non-drinking, including new and expanded industrial and public open space irrigation schemes.
There’s a big focus on water security particularly given in the last severe drought, 2019/20 the region’s water supply could have run out if there was no rainfall to break it.
There are no new dams in plan though, instead a plan to make better use of existing dams and supporting a new pipeline connection between the Lostock and Glennies Creek Dams in the Upper Hunter, enabling transfers between the regions and effectively providing an additional supply of water for the Lower Hunter.
The $200 million desalination plant at Belmont is a key part of the plan that would deliver 30 million litres of water a day.
It’s not good news for water bills – Hunter Water said their bills will not change before July 1, 2024. But beyond that, and subject to approval by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), the actions proposed are likely to increase annual residential customer bills by between $75 and $120 per year, which is a one-off increase of between six and nine per cent for the average residential customer
You can have you say on the draft plan from now until Sunday 19 September 2021. Detailed information on the Hunter Water engagement website includes the draft Plan, fact sheets about the different actions and other technical information. A COVID-Safe public webinar will be held on Tuesday 24 August and registrations are now open.
To request a printed copy call 1300 657 657. To download the draft Plan, view an explainer video and the supporting documents, as well as to make a submission or book in for the webinar, visit the community engagement webpage: www.hunterwater.com.au/waterfuture
Image credit: Water NSW website, Lobstock Dam