7 October, 2023
Castlereagh water sharing plan
The NSW Government is calling for feedback on the new draft Castlereagh Unregulated River Water Sources Water Sharing Plan which will lay out clear rules for sustainable and equitable water use in the region for the next decade.
Executive Director of Water Planning from the Department of Planning and Environment, Giselle Howard, said Aboriginal groups, conservationists, industry and the wider public are welcome to provide input during the consultation period which will help to finalise the new plan.
“We take all feedback from stakeholders on board which allows us to finesse the plan to ensure it strikes the right balance between safeguarding town water supply, protecting the environment and maximising economic opportunity,” Ms Howard said.
“Locals across the Castlereagh River lived through the last drought, the worst on record since the 1890s, and know all too well that another dry spell is fast approaching which is why having robust water management frameworks in place is essential.
“Water sharing plans are legal instruments which must be renewed every 10 years so our message to the community is clear: don’t miss an opportunity to have your say.”
The draft plan currently contains minimal changes including:
Changing cease to pump rules to be triggered by levels recorded at stream flow gauges to remove ambiguity.
Expanding the ability to trade water in certain areas of low to medium environmental value.
Introducing an exemption to allow local water utilities to apply to build in-river dams in 3rd order streams if they are for town water supply purposes, to support critical human needs.
Prohibiting new works or trades within three kilometres of Ramsar-listed wetlands or within significant wetlands.
Ms Howard said the proposed amendments are minor and aim to facilitate a smooth transition for all water users in the Castlereagh region.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel here, but we are proposing sensible, measured adjustments that aim to deliver better outcomes,” Ms Howard said.
“That includes boosting protection of critical wetlands and permitting trading into and within water sources for the first time to stimulate economic activity but also encourage water trading away from high conservation areas.”
People have until the end of next month to make their submission on the draft plan.
As well as submitting feedback online, stakeholders can book a phone call with a department staff member to discuss the draft plan directly or attend an online webinar or face-to-face information session.
Information sessions will be happening online, at physically in Coonabarabran and Gilgandra.
All feedback will be considered carefully before the final water sharing plan comes into effect in July 2024.