THE Peel River could run dry for the first time in decades, due to the state government's plan to build a pipeline.
The emergency drought measure is designed to stretch Tamworth's water supply as far as possible, and is expected to save thousands of megalitres lost in transmission. Two soil weirs will also be built to dam up the river, one at Dungowan and the other at Jewry Street bridge.
Tamworth irrigator Ian Coxhead said without the water released from Chaffey for Tamworth's drinking supply, there was a real possibility the river would run dry for the first time since the dam was built in 1979.
"Other than the dam, there's nothing else feeding it," Mr Coxhead said.
"The Cockburn River is already dry, as are many of the tributaries like Goonoo Goonoo Creek.
Mr Coxhead said the water would gradually recede along the river and the dryness could extend all the way from Chaffey to Carroll Gap, where the Peel meets the Namoi.
The NSW government plans to consult landholders, industry, irrigators and other water users along the river who may be impacted by the pipeline in August.
Mr Coxhead said the main concern was stock and domestic water supply.
"The worrying bit is many of those properties in that area rely on the river for their stock and domestic water supply," he said.
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It's also possible that wells near the Peel will be impacted if there is less water flowing along the river.
About a dozen properties are expected to be effected by the construction of the pipeline, as it cuts across the irrigation flats between Dungowan village and Chaffey.
Mr Coxhead said the consultation was "absolutely necessary, even though it won't change the outcome".
"We know this has got to happen, we've got to grit our teeth and bite the bullet," he said.
"We won't be standing in the way. Tamworth is too large to transport the water in, this is the last throw of the dice."