NEW England MP Barnaby Joyce says Tamworth needs to prepare for greater irregularity in the climate by expanding its water storage.
Water levels at Chaffey Dam have plummeted in recent months with Tamworth now on restrictions less than three years after the dam hit 100 per cent at its expanded 100,500 megalitre capacity.
Mr Joyce said Tamworth needed to expand its storage capacity once again, but he warned a change of government at the next election could mean any federal money for an augmentation could be lost.
“We have to prepare for greater irregularity in the climate,” Mr Joyce said.
He said the city should prepare by having greater water storage.
“When it does rain, it rains in bucket-loads,” he said.
“When it was opened, they said ‘Chaffey won’t fill for years’; it filled within months.
“We’re always focusing how we deal with extremes of climate.
“Drought by its very nature is a lack of water so it’s vitally important when the storms happen have, we have capacity to store it.”
Last year, Mr Joyce asked if the $75 million the federal government had on the table for an expansion of the smaller, council owned, Dungowan Dam could be reallocated for a upgrade at Chaffey.
It doesn’t appear talks have progressed since then.
He said if Chaffey was to get a further expansion, there would have to be a tripartite arrangement with the NSW government and council.
While some people have questioned why Tamworth waited so long to implement restrictions, mayor Col Murray backed council’s robust drought management plan.
He shifted focus to Chaffey Dam and said its capacity should be expanded by a further 20 per cent.
Mr Joyce didn’t explicitly back Cr Murray’s call, but he said an addition to Tamworth’s water supply would have to come from either Chaffey or Dungowan.
The New England MP believed a dam expansion would get “mired in green bureaucracy” if there was a change of government and there would be no money proffered for the project.
Before council enforced water restrictions, Chaffey Dam had fallen below 39 per cent. Level two is introduced once the dam falls below 35 per cent.