Tamworth ecologist Phil Spark calls for government to review options on new dams in light of rain

Tamworth ecologist Phil Spark is hopeful recent rain may allow the government time to reconsider its water security options. Photo: Peter Hardin
Tamworth ecologist Phil Spark is hopeful recent rain may allow the government time to reconsider its water security options. Photo: Peter Hardin

RECENT rainfall has prompted renewed calls for the NSW government to explore recycled water options rather than building new dams, such as the one planned for Mole River.

In October 2019, the state and federal governments announced the construction of a new dam on the Mole River as well as a new Dungowan Dam near Tamworth, and raising the Wyangala Dam wall in the Central West.

Announced during the peak of the recent drought, the projects were expected to be completed by 2024-2025 and were aimed at helping combat the state's ongoing drought conditions.

However, after much of the state received welcome rainfall throughout 2020, New England ecologist Phil Spark is urging the governments to reconsider the options surrounding water security.

"Now is the time to make some really good decisions that will look after water security for the long-term," Mr Spark said.

"I hope this rain can allow a bit of room to breath and some time for investigation of the different options.

"I think there is enough wheels in motion now that those considerations will get more investigation.

"I'm not sure where Water NSW is at with the planning and everything but I'm hoping there can be some time taken to consider other options such as recycled water."

The validity of the new dams will be the subject of an inquiry held by the NSW Upper House committee and will be chaired by Greens MP Cate Faehrmann.

"The dam inquiry should be one of those events that raises the debate about what's a good idea," Mr Spark said.

"We all had input into that and we're hopeful that will raise the profile of the point we are trying to make.

"The inquiry will hand down its findings in the first half of 2021, so it should be interesting to see what its recommendations are."

A Water NSW spokesperson said the project would go ahead as planned, regardless of recent rainfall.

"The proposed new Dungowan Dam remains a critical significant state infrastructure project, regardless of this year's easing of the acute drought conditions experienced across most of the state last summer," the spokesperson said.

"Work on the final business case and crucial environmental assessments, both of which commenced in early 2020, is proceeding, with both scheduled for completion late next year (2021).

"Dam storages in the region's north-west have not received the large volumes of inflows experienced elsewhere in the state, with Chaffey Dam sitting at 41pc of storage capacity.

"Construction can commence once the final business case and the environmental assessments are complete and approved."

The Land contacted NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey for comment.