Urban water security a concern for councils

Cr Bill West pictured with Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke and Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey in 2019.
Cr Bill West pictured with Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke and Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey in 2019.

Cowra mayor, Councillor Bill West told the inquiry into raising the wall at Wyangala Dam that concerns regarding urban water security are an issue for councils across the region.

Cr West told the inquiry councils have been also been concerned about the impact of water shortages on the environment and on the social and industrial fabric of communities in the region.

"With that in mind, we have been quite happy to see the alleged fast-tracking of Wyangala Dam, bearing in mind that we have always said that the process needs to be followed," Cr West said.

"We believe that the process is being followed, although perhaps it is unusual that it is being run in parallel-instead of having one program being ticked off at a time, they are doing various stages together, but that still means that there is a substantial process of ensuring that processes are being followed, and things such as EISs and business cases will be formulated before too many final decisions are made."

Cr West told the inquiry interconnectivity to secure water for towns in the valley and even in Orange outside of the valley, is something the councils have been very keen to pursue since 2009.

"There are a series of pipes which have allowed us to move water around the region in critical times, in times of critical human need or if there is an issue with pipes or pumps in a breakdown, being an emergency," he said.

"It provides that backup, if you like, though not a big one."

Cr West explained to the inquiry why Cowra Council and others believed raising the wall at Wyangala is a better option than previously considered construction of new dams at Cranky Rock and Cliefden Caves on the Belubula.

"The Cranky Rock site was ruled out because it had a $1 billion price tag and the geological structure is not suitable for a dam," he said.

Problems associated with the Cliefden Caves site were even more significant, according to Cr West.

"The one that probably created the biggest problem was an area that was adjacent to the Cliefden Caves and the limestone caves.

"The councils in the region made a public and private commitment that we would walk away from that option if it looked like impacting on those caves at all, and it looked like impacting.

"Whilst they were both probably even in their choice, that is how the Wyangala Dam was chosen, because of all of those factors being included in the consideration, particularly when it came to the choice between increasing the Wyangala Dam wall and the Cranky Rock perspective.

"I would say that, in terms of Wyangala, it also makes sense where you increase the capacity of an existing dam.

"One big dam is far better in terms of water storage and less evaporation than having half a dozen small dams.

"Water shortages and droughts will come. They are part of the natural ebb and flow of our seasons.

"Now is the time to be planning for greater water security. Now is the time to be planning and looking at how we can secure our communities into the future," Cr West told the inquiry.