Wagga Wagga City Council in conjunction with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) will prepare a draft agreement to boost the level and quality of water in Lake Albert.
The draft agreement will be presented back to Minister for Water, Property and Housing, Melinda Jane Pavey, by the end of February 2021.
Under the proposal, Council will agree to release 5,000 megalitres of water into the river system each year. In return, Council may pump up to 2,000 megalitres of water from a different point on the river to top up the lake at the end of winter or in early spring if needed. The total capacity of Lake Albert is 4,000 megalitres.
This high-quality consistent flow of water is owned by the residents of Wagga Wagga, and Council currently pays a yearly fee to put the water into the river system.
Council has proposed to continue releasing the water into the river, rather than finding an alternative use for the water, such as selling it to irrigators.
Pumping from a different location will reduce the infrastructure required to ensure a consistent flow of water to Lake Albert. Currently, only those holding a water licence can pump water from the river.
The proposed agreement would enable Council to pump the allocated water and also guarantee the river system a minimum of 3,000 megalitres of high-quality water every year.
This new proposal does away with the need for inconsistent rainfall events to naturally fill the lake and removes uncertainty around economic progress related to the lake and surrounds.
NSW Nationals MLC, Wes Fang, said, “DPIE-Water and Wagga City Council will now work together to bring back to Minister Pavey a joint proposal for consideration by the end of the month.
“Both the NSW Government and Wagga City Council will work together on this issue in a way that meets the expectations of the local community.”
City of Wagga Wagga Mayor, Greg Conkey, acknowledged the support the city has received, both from the Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, and Mr Fang.
“We are very grateful for the support they have shown the city,” Mr Conkey said.
“There is recognition that the solution offered by Wagga Wagga City Council is very promising, and that the future of the lake is tied to the economic prosperity of the area.
“To have them lending their support to our proposal has really helped our effort to bring the NSW Government to the table.”
Mr Conkey also acknowledged that Ms Pavey was aware of the social and economic significance of the lake to residents of Wagga Wagga.