Extraordinary times calls for new approaches, say Keepit Dam users who have launched a petition to keep the water in storage no lower than 20 per cent of capacity after it recovers.
While some admit that’s a big figure and a big ask, they say the main goal is to get the conversation going.
They want change to the management of the dam – and others across NSW – especially in dry times.
Set in motion by Lake Keepit and The Pub Tamworth fishing clubs, the petition is circulating in Tamworth, Gunnedah and Narrabri
The aim is to get 10,000 people to put their name to it and see it discussed in parliament.
“It’s more about awareness, to bring about better management for everyone – not just fishos and recreational users; farmers, miners, anyone who uses the water,” Keepit club life member Bert Steele said.
“It’s sad to see the dam in that state. I’ve seen it at 1 per cent in 1994, and there was still quite a bit of water at 1pc, but I’ve never seen it at 0.3pc.”
The dam has been sucked dry by evaporation after a year of record hot, dry months; and water releases to customers and causes such as cropgrowers, Walgett’s town supply and environmental health.
It has bounced back very slightly in recent days to 0.5 per cent, but there’s still very little – if anything – to work with for recreational users such as anglers, swimmers, waterskiiers and sailors.
Gunnedah’s Andrew King – “as mad as a hat” for fishing and, due to the dry, a recently lapsed member of the club – said 5pc was a “more realistic figure” but supported the petition’s aim to agitate for change.
He said the storage should be assessed more often and water allocations adjusted accordingly.
“I’m getting almost death threats from the farmers [for sharing the petition] … I tell them, ‘You need to calm down, because my action could help you guys, too’,” Mr King said.
“The money [paid for water allocations] could basically stay in the farmer’s bank … and they could put in a smaller crop because they can’t be provided with that much water.”
Mr King said he was well aware of farming and industry’s importance to the Gunnedah area, but it was about better sharing the resource when it was limited.
“I’m not biased towards any situation,” he said.