FARMERS and irrigators using Peel River water have had allocations slashed despite Chaffey Dam sitting close to 100 per cent of it pre-expansion capacity.
Groups in Tamworth are preparing to fight for a better deal after the NSW Department of Industry handed-down a 29 per cent water allocation for Peel Valley licence holders for the 2018/19 financial year.
It means general security access licence holders have had their allocations slashed by more than 70 per cent after accessing 100 per cent of the maximum allowable 5,000 megalitres last year.
Tamworth dairy farmer Wes Brown said water users will have to accept the ruling, but it will change the way they manage things.
“We had 100 per cent last year, that makes it easy,” Mr Brown said.
“This year we've got to change, we've groundwater as well, we’ll be using that, anyone who hasn’t got groundwater will have to weigh-up their options.”
He said it was “without a doubt” one of the worst dry spells he’d seen which was illuminated by the amount trucks and utes stacked with hay driving through town.
He said farmers were battling without any subsidies and were having to truck-in grain from farther away as prices rose.
Tamworth councillor Russell Webb hoped the allocation could be reconsidered in light of the Chaffey Dam expansion.
The dam is currently at about 56 per cent capacity which is close to 100 per cent, pre-augmentation.
“The irrigators see it as unfair, you would think you could safely allocate more water without risking the wider community,” Cr Webb said.
He agreed if more water could be allocated locally it might help reduce the need for fodder to be trucked-in from interstate.
“People are dragging fodder long distances to maintain breeding herds and it’s quickly becoming un-affordable,” he said.
“When the drought ends, and it will end, we’ll desperately need to have in place farming properties that have enough breeding stock to continue on get back in to business and get the region back into business.
“If you give a bit more water, they might be able to grow a bit more fodder and that could be very beneficial.”
Aquifer general security access licence holders will receive a 65 per cent allocation in the Peel Valley.