NSW councils dive into water debate

By Angela Dorizas

Councils across New South Wales have welcomed the extension of the Water Loss Management Program until June 2011.

A joint initiative of the Local Government and Shires Associations (LGSA) and the NSW Water Directorate, the program includes Commonwealth funding of $7.3m from the Water Smart Australia program, part of the Government’s $12.9 billion Water for the Future plan.

The number of participants in the program has doubled, with 66 councils now involved.

Shires Association president Bruce Miller announced the Federal Government’s extension of funding for the program at the 2009 LGSA Water Management Conference in Deniliquin.

Cr Miller said the goal of saving up to 10,000 megalitres of water per year was now closer to becoming a reality thanks to the extension on the program.

“It will enable us to continue that good work, but also will enable other councils to become part of that program if they so wish,” he told GovernmentNews.

“They have got up until December this year to make their minds up as to whether they want to be part of the program as well.”

He said the program had both short and long term objectives: promoting sustainability and water loss management techniques to assist councils now; and introducing mechanisms to help councils identify and reduce water loss in the future.

Focus on irrigation, not buy backs

In his address to the conference, Cr Miller called on the Commonwealth and State Government to increase their commitment to improve irrigation in western NSW.

He said the focus should be shifted from water buy backs to irrigation methods.

“There are a range or water needs in the basin – urban, production, irrigation and environmental,” Cr Miller said.

“We know that our river systems are in desperate need of protection, but so too are our rural communities.”

LGSA cautiously welcomed the Murray Darling Basin Plan to be developed by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

Cr Miller said the plan had the potential to offer a coordinated approach to dealing with reduced water availability, but the Authority needed to clarify how they will determined what a sustainable take of water is.

He said social and economic impacts needed to be taken into consideration.

“They need to make sure that they do socio-economic studies as part of the process,”
Cr Miller said.

“We think it’s a step in the right direction and we will support it, but they need to take into account the social economic impacts on communities before they set that allocation limit, not after.”

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at editorial@governmentnews.com.au.  

Sign up to the Government News newsletter

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required