Campbells River Downstream and Macquarie River above Bathurst unregulated river management zones and downstream Lake Oberon to confluence with Macquarie River in the Fish River
Reason for Decision
In times of extreme drought, protecting water supply for critical water needs is a key priority.
Putting in place temporary restriction orders on certain types of access licences allows water supply to be protected for critical water needs.
Rainfall is predicted to be below average across most of the country from October 2019 to January 2020, with temperatures expected to be warmer than average. This, coupled with dry antecedent conditions means that transmission and evaporative losses within most water sources will be very high.
Ben Chifley Dam is the major town water supply for Bathurst, with water delivered daily at low flow rates. The dam is 17 kilometres upstream of Bathurst. Water is released into the Campbells River and then flows into the Macquarie River where it is extracted for Bathurst town supply. Irrigators along the stretch of river between the dam and Bathurst’s offtake have historically experienced quite a reliable supply, despite the fact it is an unregulated river. Council has advised that because of dry conditions, high losses and regular irrigation extractions Council has to release 4 to 5 times the water required for Council’s needs from the dam over summer to ensure sufficient volume reaches their offtake. As of 29 October the dam was at 43.4% capacity.
The Water Sharing Plan for the Macquarie Bogan Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2012 includes a rule at clause 53 (15) of the plan which restricts licence extractions when Ben Chifley Dam drops to 22% (700.14 m at the storage gauge). Bathurst Council has requested irrigation access be partly restricted much earlier than the 22% storage level to ensure that town water supplies are secured. Council has advised that the dam is being depleted at quicker rates than anticipated due to the unprecedented drought conditions and the past two winters have failed to result in significant inflows into the dam. This, coupled with the aforementioned weather forecast supports Council’s request for a temporary water restriction. Council has had level 3 water restrictions in place since November 2018, and commencing 14 October, Council implemented level 4-5 (extreme) restrictions because of concerns over the security of its water supply. Council’s water supply risk has been rated as high by DPIE-Water local water utilities branch with currently less than 12 months secure supply.
Access licence holders within the Campbells River Downstream and Macquarie River above Bathurst management zones, have a combined estimated entitlement of 4,700 ML. Bathurst Council has estimated the proposed restriction would result in a saving of 1,500 ML between now and 30 June 2020.
The Fish River also provides inflows to Bathurst’s town water supply. Unregulated access licence holders within the Fish River Water Source have a combined estimated entitlement of 2,000 ML. Restricting take from this water source from downstream Lake Oberon to confluence with Macquarie River will also help secure supply for local critical needs.
During extreme dry periods, restrictions are needed to protect flows from general extraction and ensure priority is given to leaving water in the system to meet critical water needs. In this case the restriction will be imposed to ensure town water security to Bathurst. This temporary restriction will restrict take from these management zones and water source to 20% (access to 80% suspended) of the entitlement for unregulated river access licences.
Any temporary water restriction can be amended or repealed if necessary to do so in the public interest and requires gazettal and public notification to take effect.
Reasons for Decision
Temporary water restriction – section 324
Section 324 of the Water Management Act 2000 (the Act) allows the Minister or his delegate to order that temporary water restrictions within a water source(s) are to have effect for a specified period, if these restrictions are determined to be in the public interest.
Examples of the public interest referred to in section 324(1) include “to cope with a water shortage, threat to public health or safety or to manage water for environmental purposes”.
Based on the information outlined in the Background section, there is a public interest in making an order to restrict take in the Campbells River Downstream and Macquarie River above Bathurst management zones and downstream Lake Oberon to confluence with Macquarie River in the Fish River Water Source as follows:
- “to cope with a water shortage” – below average rainfall predictions and temperatures expected to be warmer than average, coupled with dry antecedent conditions means that transmission and evaporative losses will be very high. The remaining water supplies in the Ben Chifley Dam and the Fish River Water Source must be conserved for critical local needs.
- “threat to public health and safety” – town water supply and domestic supplies are crucial for public health and safety and are under threat without intervention. These mitigation measures are needed to conserve supplies to ensure town water supply. Flows and conditions will be monitored. Water users will be kept up to date with the prospects of water access through water user forums, communiques issued by Council.
Accordingly, the temporary water restriction order is being made to restrict take to 20% (access to 80% suspended) of the available entitlement for unregulated river access licences.
Emma Solomon, Acting Executive Director, Department of Planning, Industry and Environment – Water Policy, Planning and Sciences
30 October 2019