RECENTLY Greening Bathurst (GB) wrote to Bathurst Regional Council commending council on initiating actions to improve the security of the city's water supply.
Our comments reflect the position of GB after extensive internal consultation with our member ecologists, engineers and professionals.
GB supports the replacement of the wooden pipeline between Winburndale Dam and Bathurst city.
The water in the dam is some of the most pristine within the local government area, free from carp and mosquito fish and home to many native animals including the platypus and water rat.
Under no circumstances should water from the Macquarie River be pumped to the Winburndale Dam, since this would introduce undesirable exotics.
GB understands that deep bores locally do not produce adequate volumes for domestic supply, however, Bathurst Regional Council should further investigate water availability from alluvial flats and the potential for significant water harvesting storage within these aquifers.
In GB's view, the current urban stormwater-harvesting project makes little sense unless, implicit in the long-term planning, city effluent can be recycled.
The potential volume of water collected from urban stormwater is relatively small (especially in drought years!) and treatment is expensive.
Rural stormwater is already a significant contributor to Bathurst's water needs via the Fish River.
This offtake could be increased and replicated in the Vale catchment which would make the proposed harvesting scheme redundant and repair damaged farmlands.
GB commends both Bathurst Regional Council and local irrigators in agreeing on the current limited water use and the cease to irrigate trigger if the dam falls below 22 per cent capacity.
GB notes that irrigators are required to have offtakes metered by the end of 2020.
GB is also aware of illegal water access upstream and downstream of Bathurst, and some examples of flagrant breaches of NSW Government water sharing rules.
Addressing the above issues would likely result in an increase in base flows in the upper Macquarie catchment.
GB strongly recommends that Bathurst Regional Council initiate a subsidy for a minimum 10,000 litre tank on every residential and business site.
Around 50 per cent of Bathurst's current water demands could be met by tank water, although there is an equity issue to consider for residents who cannot afford tanks.
GB has grave doubts about the proposal to build a regional pipeline from Wyangala Dam and raise the wall.
Water from the Lachlan River is already close to over allocation and climate data shows deficit flows in the Abercrombie catchment for a decade now and likely to continue.
The building of a pipeline from Chifley Dam to Bathurst Water Filtration Plant would reduce instream river losses, evaporation and separate city water from irrigation water.
The proposal to raise Chifley Dam wall by one to two metres has been costed at around $200 million and may prove economically unsustainable.
A pipeline to town should be a much higher priority to ensure our existing water is used more efficiently.
Finally, we should not underestimate the very sensible option to simply 'use less' rather than 'make more' water.
Smart meters, pressure reducing devices and the use of grey water for gardening should be considered with at least the same vigour that our governments are expected to apply to the provision of big, multi-million dollar infrastructure projects, like dams, pipes and pumps.