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Water security for Lower Hunter’s future

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NSW Government and Hunter Water have unveiled a 40-year strategy to secure the Lower Hunter’s water supply now… and in the future.

The proposal is the culmination of more than 36 months of comprehensive investigations and assessment, underpinned by in-depth engagement with the community, to ensure the growing region has the protection it desperately requires.

The Lower Hunter currently uses 170 litres per person per day.

But, during severe drought, residents have indicated they are willing to reduce their water use through restrictions to about 100 litres per person per day.

The current scheme is only able to provide around 50 litres per person per day during an extreme drought.

However, to provide confidence and certainty for the region, the capacity of the Lower Hunter water supply system needs to increase.

But, it’ll also come at a cost to locals.

Hunter Water bills will not change before 1 July 2024.

Beyond that, and subject to approval by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), the actions proposed are likely to increase annual residential customer statements by between $75 and $120 per year, which is a one-off increase of between 6% and 9%.

NSW Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said the draft Lower Hunter Water Security Plan was a foundation for the economic development of Greater Newcastle and the Hunter while supporting the livability of the community, setting out a pathway until 2060.

“Water is fundamental to the region’s growth, prosperity and quality of life,” she stated.

“I’m proud of the comprehensive work involving a whole-of-government approach to ensure we have a sustainable and resilient water supply for the Lower Hunter, now and for future generations.

“Hunter Water has developed a draft plan that will support the growth of the region and ensure it can respond to system shocks, including drought and a changing climate.”

Hunter Water managing director Darren Cleary said the recent drought has highlighted the vulnerability of the water supply system.

“The recent drought rewrote the rules for many communities around NSW,” he explained.

“New insights gained during the drought have confirmed that our region is more vulnerable to drought than we previously thought.

“The Hunter’s storages can go from typical operating levels to critical in less than three years.

“If drought were to continue beyond this, our region could run out of water.

“Our community has told us they expect a reliable water supply that can withstand drought, reaffirming our view that it is unacceptable for a region the size of the Lower Hunter to face the risk of running out of water.

“A key objective of our future planning is to make sure we can supply enough water to meet the demand from households, businesses and industrial customers, while underpinning regional prosperity and nurturing the unique Lower Hunter environment.”

The draft Lower Hunter Water Security Plan is now on public exhibition for a six-week period concluding on Sunday 19 September.

Detailed information on the Hunter Water engagement website includes the proposal, fact sheets about the different actions and other technical information.

A COVIDSafe public webinar to provide participants with an understanding of the plan is scheduled to take place on Tuesday 24 August – between 2pm and 3pm – and registrations are now open.

A recording of the webinar will be available via the Hunter Water engagement site for those unable to attend.

To request a printed copy, phone 1300 657 657. 

To download the draft plan, view an explainer video and the supporting documents, as well as to make a submission or book in for the webinar, visit the community engagement webpage at www.hunterwater.com.au/waterfuture

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