Bathurst’s Chifley Dam is down to 39 per cent of its capacity – the lowest level since the wall was raised in 2003 – and slipping by a further 1 per cent every week
-if there is no rain … raising a dam wall makes no difference
BATHURST losing its water to Sydney’s high population Housing Ponzi Scheme!
Tensions rise as Bathurst loses bid for water allocation to Sydney
By Harriet Alexander
November 27, 2019
A government decision to divert the water allocation from a mothballed power station to the Sydney catchment instead of nearby Bathurst has inflamed tensions in the thirsty town, where the mayor has been blamed for not lobbying hard enough for water security and irrigators accused of taking more than their share.
Bathurst’s Chifley Dam is down to 39 per cent of its capacity – the lowest level since the wall was raised in 2003 – and slipping by a further 1 per cent every week.
Bathurst Regional Council wanted to buy Energy Australia’s annual water allocation for Oberon Dam, which supplied Wallerawang Power Station until it closed in 2014, and has since been used by Sydney Water.
After the state government knocked back this proposal last month, the town moved to extreme water restrictions and local irrigators agreed to take just 20 per cent of their water allocation.
WaterNSW systems operations manager Adrian Langdon said Oberon Dam supplied Lithgow, Oberon, storages for the Blue Mountains and Energy Australia, which still operates Mt Piper Power Station.
If three gigalitres of water were to be diverted to Bathurst as its council proposed, there would be additional transmission losses of up to 1.5 gigalitres and the dam would be left with just eight gigalitres, he said
“Under a worst-case scenario of zero inflows, Oberon Dam holds enough water in storage to provide supply until April 2021. The loss of three gigalitres would change that date to November 2020.”
But Councillor Jess Jennings last week attempted to have a water emergency declared for the region to send a signal to the government that this decision should be overturned. If water from Oberon Dam were to be secured, progression to level five water restrictions would be avoided and irrigators would have kept 40 per cent of their allocation, he said.
“We’ve had absolutely zero political leadership from our mayor to lobby on behalf of our irrigators,” Dr Jennings said. “Local government matters for the first time in decades because if we don’t get our message right, we will miss out on fundamental measures like water security.”
Mayor Bobby Bourke said council had secured $15 million from the government since he became mayor, but he suspected the irrigators were pumping more water than their allocation allowed.
“I just hope it rains so the irrigators can get a bit more, but it’s not metered so they’re probably doing what they want to do,” Mr Bourke said. “If I had crops in there I’d be trying to get away with it, I suppose. What can you do?”
Council summoned local farmers last week and reminded them of the fines that could be incurred for drawing more than their allocation. Irrigator Jeff McSpedden, who attended the meeting, said they had been “read the riot act”.
“That struck the fear of God into people,” Mr McSpedden said. “There might be a few people pinching a bit, but it might be that they’re taking it now and they’re not going to take it later.”
Town water restrictions have proved a challenge for home gardeners in Bathurst, with watering reduced to two half-hour periods per week.
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Peter Varman, a former horticulturalist and current member of the local gardening club, is running workshops on water efficiency with methods such as mulching, choosing drought resistant plants and the use of seaweed extract.
His innovations include cutting small holes into plastic containers, filling them with grey water and placing them next to individual plants to ensure every drop goes through to the roots and not deflected off the leaves.
“None of us are bothering with grass because we’re not allowed to water lawn anyway, but it’s for the plants we want to save,” Mr Varman said. “You only have to look around the streets to see some of the trees are starting to die because there’s just no water. People are very much affected by this.”
Harriet Alexander is a reporter for the Herald.