Council urgently seeks alternative water source

Council is pushing at the highest level to fast-track an alternative water supply.
Council is pushing at the highest level to fast-track an alternative water supply.

Mayor Peter Petty and council chief executive Terry Dodds have met with Water Minister Melinda Pavey seeking fast-tracking of the approval process for alternative water sources.

The concern is that as the Shirley Park bore water quality diminishes or the quantity substantially drops, the township will be reliant on rainfall within the catchment. With historically little rain being received over winter at the best of times, council is investigating alternate bore locations for both potable supply (mains water) and supply for livestock.

"If we need to cart water in by trucks we're looking at 1150 per month," Cr Petty said.

"That's to be avoided at all costs."

Apex Park Bore's yield is low and the quality suited only to stock use, but it's estimated that using it to water livestock in town would decrease the demand on the mains water supply by 2-3 per cent a month. This option, however, has been frustrated by refusal by the Natural Resources Access Regulator to allow non-potable water to be pumped from the bore.

As a result of the meeting with the minister, Cross Border Commissioner and Regional Town Water Supply Coordinator James McTavish will meet in Tenterfield with representatives from the Department of Industry-Water (DOI-Water), council staff and Cr Petty on June 4 to discuss a funding mechanism for emergency explorations, expedited approval pathways and a timeline for delivery.

Tenterfield along with neighbour Guyra are among around NSW 38 towns exploring alternatives before disaster strikes, putting considerable pressure on the DOI-Water.

Queensland neighbour the Southern Downs Regional Council has declared its water situation as a natural disaster in hopes it will attract funding for assistance. The council's current water restrictions allow only 120 litres of water per person per day.

Minister Pavey indicated that an emergency declaration in other areas tends to give the impression that the town is "closed for business", risking Tenterfield's tourism business should it go down that path.

If we need to cart water in by trucks we're looking at 1150 per month. That's to be avoided at all costs.

Mayor Peter Petty

"Tenterfield will never be closed for business, but we understand the Minister's concerns regarding that proposed tactic, "Cr Petty said.

"But the suggestion did hit home to the Minister that it is a dire situation we face and timeliness in a response to implement a Plan B is critical. "

He assured residents that Mr Dodds, chief operating officer Andre Kompler, water specialists, and council are all working hard behind the scenes to find an option that will work for Tenterfield, not only for the current crisis but to ensure water sustainability into the future.

"I urge patience and a continuation of your diligence to assist our whole community at this time. Most of all though, I urge the heavens to open and good rainfall to bless our water catchments."

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