Macquarie River

Local communities have been invited to have their say on regional water strategy drafts – the Lachlan Regional Water Strategy draft and the Macquarie-Castlereagh Regional Water Strategy draft. 

Executive Director Water Strategy and Policy for the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, Kaia Hodge, said it is the second time the strategies have been on public exhibition, giving the community an opportunity to provide feedback on the shortlisted options before 1 November.The Lachlan Regional Water Strategy is set to deliver a reliable, sustainable and resilient water supply for towns and communities including Parkes, Cowra, Forbes and Young, and the industries that support the region’s economy, over the next two decades and beyond.

“We worked closely with Aboriginal groups, local governments, residents, businesses, and all stakeholders to understand the Lachlan’s water challenges and needs during the first round of consultation in 2020,” Ms Hodge said.

The feedback gathered helped refine the strategy and aided to narrow down the options to a shortlist that Ms Hodge believes will best support communities, industry and the environment, and deliver a more secure water future for the Lachlan.

“The Strategy is being developed alongside two major infrastructure business cases in the region, the Wyangala Dam Wall Raising Project and the Belubula Water Security Project,” Ms Hodge said. 

“These projects aim to improve water security, drive economic growth and support a liveable and prosperous region. As these business cases are still being developed, the Strategy will remain flexible and adaptable so if and when they proceed, Strategy options will work in tandem to achieve the best outcomes.”

Ms Hodge said water planning needs to support all water users, including Aboriginal communities, towns, industries and the environment, especially as the regions face a drier and more variable climate and a higher demand on water resources.

“Residents know first-hand the devastating effects of extreme weather, from the recent prolonged drought to this year’s catastrophic flooding. These events are likely to be more frequent and intense in the future, and we need to prepare now to create more resilient water resources.

“We also need to consider the water needs of new and existing industries, including the thriving agriculture, mining and manufacturing sectors which significantly contribute to the Lachlan’s $6.73 billion annual economy. 

“The shortlisted options address these needs and challenges to get the balance right.”

The draft Macquarie-Castlereagh Regional Water Strategy is set to deliver more secure, safe and reliable water for the region – spanning from Oberon, Bathurst and Orange in the east, to Dubbo Narromine and Nyngan in the west – for the next 20 years and beyond.

Key actions in the Strategy include:

  • Creating water savings through the changed operation of regulated effluent creeks in the lower part of the Macquarie
  • Investigating and carrying out further comparative analysis on replacing the aging and damaged Gin Gin weir
  • Using flood mitigation storage in Burrendong Dam to increase water supply
  • A regional pipeline connecting Dubbo to Nyngan and other towns
  • Innovative water supply options such as stormwater harvesting, recycled water and managed aquifer recharge
  • Improving the way we manage groundwater resources
  • Supporting Aboriginal people to be more involved in water management by sharing their traditional knowledge and contributing to decision-making
  • Improving fish passage and water quality, and riparian habitat restoration

“We’ve refined the Strategy after consulting with the community, including Aboriginal stakeholders, local councils, businesses, industry, environmental groups and residents,” Ms Hodge said.

“The result is a shortlist of options that will better prepare the region for future droughts, keeping the water needs of the community, agriculture, industry and the environment front of mind.”

The Strategy is being developed alongside several major infrastructure business cases, including the Nyngan to Cobar Pipeline Project and the Macquarie-Wambuul Water Security Scheme. The proposed shortlisted options in the Strategy will work in tandem with any future infrastructure projects if, and when, they are progressed.

“The rivers and the life they support are also culturally important to Aboriginal people, who have been caretakers of this region for over 60,000 years. Addressing access to water for First Nations is a priority in the strategy,” Ms Hodge said.

“We also know the Macquarie-Castlereagh is an agricultural, mining and tourism hub, employing the largest section of the workforce and significantly contributing to the region’s $13.5 billion per year economy.

“It’s also home to the internationally recognised Ramsar-listed Macquarie Marshes, which provide habitat for rare, endangered and threatened animal and plant species.

“Water, and the way we manage it, is key to the health and viability of both.”

The strategies and shortlisted options will be on display until 1 November 2022 and all stakeholders will have the opportunity to have their say.

Have your say on the draft Lachlan Regional Water Strategy here.

Have your say on the draft Macquarie-Castlereagh Regional Water Strategy here.

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