THERE is an obvious and a less obvious reason for Bathurst to get its stormwater harvesting project sorted out this year.
The obvious reason, of course, is so the city doesn't again find itself in the situation it faced last year, with its dam dwindling, no rain relief on the horizon and no alternative water source available.
The less obvious reason, though, is so the city can maintain confidence in its robust population growth - which might yet accelerate rather than decelerate due to COVID and the changes it has forced to Sydney CBD office workers.
There was a noticeable shift last summer in attitude to the new housing developments marching out across former farmland on Bathurst's fringes.
In letters to the editor and in comments on the Advocate's Facebook page, readers expressed everything from disquiet to anger that new houses were being approved while the dam that supplied the existing population was falling so rapidly.
Environmental, planning and building services director Neil Southorn told the Advocate in February last year that the consequences of a slower rate of population growth would be significant for the city's economy - and, "in any case, how would council prevent population growth and stop people wanting to move to Bathurst?".
But it did seem that, to some, the new roofs glinting in the sun at Eglinton or Kelso last January began to represent something else as the big dry really started to bite - and it wasn't the city's progress.
Which brings us back to water security.
Council has the money (from the NSW Government) for the project and a proposed route.
It would be understandable if some of the sense of urgency had been lost given our dam is full and this summer of storms has been a complete contrast to the dust and fires and heatwaves of last year.
But if Bathurst stands ready to benefit from a big shift in Sydneysiders' attitudes to where and how they work in a post-COVID world, Bathurstians need to know that the water is there for this big shift to happen.
It will be too late when the next drought hits - and there's simply no way of knowing when that might happen.
We can't bar people from wanting to call Bathurst home, but we can make sure we've got the contingency plans in place if the next big dry arrives and we've got a lot more taps turning on than in the summer of 2019-20.