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92.9fm Regional News

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The drought might have broken, but can we do better next time?

Tamworth residents have endured more than two years of stringent water restrictions, and whilst 2020 delivered many challenges, La Nina brought a wet summer raising dam levels and delivering relief for residents and farmers across the region.

From Wednesday, 6th January residents in the Tamworth Regional Council area can have their say on how well the drought was managed at a local level.

Tamworth's Drought Management Plan outlines a comprehensive strategy for managing water in the local government area and guided most of the decisions made over the last few years.

Bruce Logan Director of Water and Waste with Tamworth Regional Council said it's now time to review the drought plan and they want to get as many responses as possible.

"We want to know what people think worked and what they think didn't work," said Mr Logan.

The information collected from the survey will be used to identify key issues, so Council can adapt and improve the plan for the future.

The Council has engaged an external social research company to undertake the survey, which will be available online or conducted by phone.

The survey consists of 42 questions and takes approximately 15 minutes to complete.

Mr Logan said he doesn't think there need to be too many changes but there are a few key questions to consider.

"Have we set the triggers for water restrictions at the right level or should that change?, Do we need to have permanent water restrictions place? If we do tighten restrictions all the time would that lead to a greater increase in our water security?," said Mr Logan.

Water allocation is a complicated and opaque subject in Australia, and whilst sometimes it appears that our local council has all the control, this isn't always the case.

Tamworth's local government area stretches far and wide encompassing multiple water sources controlled by both Council and the state government.

Take, for example, Chaffey Dam owned and controlled by the state government.

The level of water in Chaffey Dam controls the level of water restrictions for Tamworth Moonbi and Kootingal, yet Tamworth Regional Council does not have control over what happens to the water stored in the dam.

According to Water NSW, the main purpose of the dam is to supply irrigation and stock needs in the Peel River Valley and to supply water to the city of Tamworth.

This means that even if residents in Tamworth, Moonbi and Kootingal save more water, it will not necessarily be kept in storage for when we need it later on, as Tamworth Regional Council has no control over the access.

Water sources for Tamworth's regional area make up part of the Northern Murray Darlin Basin.

According to the latest data from the Bureau of Meteorology, despite having increased storage capacity in our Northern Region, dam levels reached an all-time low during 2019/2020.

The graph below shows water captured in dams around the Northern Region over the last 10 years.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology's State of Climate Report and the NSW Government's New England, North West Plan our region is likely to experience longer drought periods into the future.

So remember, even if the idea of a 42 question survey about water makes you feel like a wet rag, it's an issue that our community will be contending with for a long time.

You can have your say here.


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