THE NSW government will spend $5.3 million on water security projects in Tamworth, including an emergency pipeline from Chaffey Dam to Dungowan, in an effort to stretch local water supplies as far as possible.
The $3.4m pipeline is expect to save the city 17,000 megalitres a year. Temporary weirs will also be built at the junction of the Peel River and Dungowan Creek, and at the Jewry Street bridge.
WaterNSW CEO David Harris said the soil weirs were expected to be built by November, with the pipeline to be completed by February or March.
"The purpose of the weir is to enable us to pump water out of the river and in to the pre-existing TRC pipeline that will bring that water in to Tamworth," Mr Harris said.
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson said the pipeline would minimise water losses along the Peel River, as about 50 per cent of water released from Chaffey is lost by the time it reaches Tamworth's water treatment plant.
"The water in Chaffey Dam needs to last as long as possible, we need to conserve every drop," Mr Anderson said.
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NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey said a further $2 million would be used to protect the town water needs of Tamworth and plan for a long-term security solution.
A recent study by council found that Tamworth's existing groundwater supply, once thought to be the city's backup supply source in drought, will be inadequate
"The government has been working hard with Tamworth Regional Council in response to this new information to mitigate its impact to Tamworth town water supply," Ms Pavey said.
"Through these measures announced today we will guarantee [Tamworth's] supply will last longer, as we get through the worst drought on record."
Tamworth mayor Col Murray said the funding was "a big relief".
"It feels like we are well and truly part of the discussion now," Cr Murray said.
"We've had a strong roll out of meetings over the last few weeks with regard to both short-term water security and long-term water security in Tamworth over the next few years.
"I think this will give the community a lot of confidence about how we move forward with this most desperate situation."
Weir and pipeline will impact farmers
Mr Harris said WaterNSW would consult with landholders along the river, as the weirs and pipeline would impact them.
"We want to understand that [impact], we want to talk to them about their basic landholder rights, their stock and domestic supplies, and obviously talk to the high-security and general-security users along the rivers," Mr Harris said.
Ms Pavey said the announcement would have an impact on "a number of farmers between the temporary weirs and where the water would normally reach the Namoi River".
"Our farmers understand this is a really tough time, but everybody knows our priority always has to be town water supplies," she said.
"We'll continue to work with farmers. We know the crops are in at the moment, and we will have due regard and consideration for all of those things."
The Leader understands that the pipeline will not be used permanently, and in the future will only be used as a last resort.