The government of New South Wales in Australia has committed $87 million to build water infrastructure in the drought-stricken state, reports ABC Western Plains. Among the more than 30 projects that the state government will help fund, Water Minister Melinda Pavey mentioned a stormwater harvesting project in Bathurst and work to upgrade the Albert Priest Channel. She highlighted the importance of rural NSW communities for the state’s economy, as important agricultural and mining regions.
Ms Pavey noted Dubbo, with a population of close to 40,000 people, was one of the towns in the region most at risk of running dry. It gets its water from Burrendong dam, currently at 3.1% of its capacity. The Dubbo Regional Council received $30 million from the state government earlier this year to increase water security. The local government is working on a number of options that include digging new bores, but also forward looking measures such as effluent reuse. The council implemented level 4 water restrictions as of November 1st, but the daily residential target is still 280 litres per person per day, well above the 183 litres per day Sydney residents consume, or Melbourne’s target of 155 litres per person per day.
Local politicians welcome the funding support but criticise ‘decision-making on the run’ to address the emergency situation. Although interim measures may be necessary to provide immediate relief, long term planning and decision-making seems to be called for, rather than a band-aid approach which does little to mitigate the underlying problem.
Indeed, earlier this month some experts called for the government to declare a water emergency, noting that water infrastructure like dams will not address the problem. They stressed that the current situation is not simply an act of God, but the result of lack of planning and decision-making that benefits a few at the expense of the public interest. Meanwhile, WaterNSW claims the drought has not been caused by extraction or irrigation, and highlights the extreme low inflows ─ the lowest recorded inflows in history ─ in the past six months.