The NSW government should fast track the planning process for dam construction in the wake of fears parts of regional NSW could run out of water as early as November due to the drought.
The call by Nationals leader and Deputy Premier John Barilaro to boost water resources was made on Monday ahead of a cabinet meeting this week.
“We need to not spend years consulting on the environmental impact and how communities feel about where we put dams,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“We need to get a bulldozer into the soil and build them. If we don’t ease the planning requirements nothing will get built for years and years and nothing is more urgent.”
Mr Barilaro also challenged the state coalition government to reconsider its commitment to budget surpluses in favour of costly water infrastructure, saying tough times require tough decisions.
“If it means pushing the budget into the red, if it means borrowing money that’s OK,” he said.
Projections from the state’s river operator and bulk water supplier, WaterNSW, paint a worst-case scenario for a number of NSW regional towns if there’s no significant rainfall in coming months.
The first towns to lose water supply will be Dubbo, Cobar, Nyngan and Narromine in November when the Macquarie River is forecast to run dry.
The Macquarie River experiences an average inflow of 1448GL annually but in the past two years has seen just 97GL enter the river system, data seen by AAP shows.
Australia’s longest river – the Murray – which is part of the Murray Darling Basin plan, has also been severely affected with 901GL of water entering the system in the past 12 months compared to its annual average of 5000GL.
Menindee Lakes – which is a source of flows for the Lower Darling – received just six gigalitres of water in the past year. It’s annual inflow average is 1387GL.
The lakes sit within the town of Menindee which experienced mass fish deaths along the Darling River last summer.
The Lachlan River, which runs through the state’s central west, is projected to run dry by March 2020 leaving the towns of Forbes, Cowra and Parkes without water supply.
The river is the fourth-longest in Australia and annually receives an average of 1212GL of water, but in the last year recorded inflows of just 107GL.
A group of rivers which straddle the NSW and Queensland border and supply water to the towns of Boggabilla, Ashford and Goondiwindi, received just 17GL of inflows in the past year compared to an annual average of 1000GL.
WaterNSW predicts the border rivers will run dry by September 2020, under a worst-case scenario.
Image Source: GHD