NSW Drought: Water should be free for farmers: Bathurst councillor Jess Jennings says | Photos, pictures

THE region’s drought-affected farmers may soon get free water to use on their properties if Bathurst Regional councillor Jess Jennings’ proposal is approved.

Currently, 100 per cent of the Central Tablelands has been declared in drought (62.7 per cent) or ‘drought onset’ (37.3 per cent).

Just last week, more than 100 Bathurst region farmers attended a drought information session in the city to seek information on how to get themselves, their stock and their properties through the tough times.

Cr Jennings will use Wednesday’s policy committee meeting to suggest an immediate 50 per cent discount on the cost of purchasing water from council, effectively dropping the price from $5 a kilolitre to $2.50.

But, for primary producers, he said water for stock and domestic use should be provided free by council.

“It’s severely bone dry everywhere you look,” Cr Jennings said of the drought-stricken region.

“Imagine working all day in dusty paddocks with starving stock and then coming home and not even seeing a little bit of green grass outside your house, and then being so concerned by how much water you can use and not even being able to have a decent shower.”

It could be the difference for some farmers … to decide what they’ll do with their stock.

Bathurst Regional councillor Jess Jennings

Cr Jennings will ask other councillors to back his initiative to allow farmers to collect water for free in their own trucks or get it delivered by a contractor and pay the transport cost.

“It could be the difference for some farmers … to decide what they’ll do with their stock,” he said.

In order to ensure there is enough water for farmers, Cr Jennings said residential water restrictions should commence.

Water restrictions for residents usually commence when Chifley Dam drops to 40 per cent, however, he said this should be changed to 50 per cent. The dam’s water level is currently 53 per cent.

Cr Jennings said people should not be worried that giving free water to primary producers would lead to an insufficient amount for others in the community.

He said since the dam wall was raised in the year 2000, that the dam now had almost twice the capacity 

“We are in a strong position,” he said.

NSW Farmers Association Bathurst president David McKay said this would be a huge help and a “game-changer for people who need water”.

“It shows that someone is thinking about producers,” he said.

Cr Jennings said unlike other government support or interest free loans that only helped farmers get further into debt, this proposal was “essentially a gift”.

He did not put a limit on the amount of free water farmers could access, nor a time limit for the initiative.