IT WOULD take up to 10 daily trains, each carrying 2.5 million litres of water, and a fleet of more than 60 trucks to unload them to meet Tamworth's water needs, a freight expert say.
As more towns and cities face the reality of running out of water if the drought continues to drag on, carting water via rail is being considered as a serious option.
Crawford Freightlines owner Peter Crawford, who recently opened a new terminal in Werris Creek, said each train can carry 2.5ML of water. With Tamworth using up to 25 megalitres a day in summer, he estimated it would take eight or 10 trains to meet the daily demand.
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Then a fleet of 66 B-double trucks, each carting 38,000 litres, would be need to unload the trains.
It might sound like a logistical nightmare, Mr Crawford said it was achievable - however, someone "has to bite the bullet".
"It would be a very costly process, but it would still be miles cheaper than carting it by road," he said.
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"You could bring it all the way in to Tamworth, the main line isn't overly busy. There is a lot of line where you could unload it, but you do need to get the right approvals and that could take some time.
"It couldn't be left to the last minute to organise."
Rail Tram and Bus Union NSW Secretary Alex Claassens said disused railway lines across regional areas, such as the Armidale-to-Tenterfield line, could be used to transport water to towns with dwindling supplies.
"There are disused rail lines in many parts of the state that are begging to be reopened or, at a minimum, properly preserved," he said.
"Transporting water between sites by train is not only helping drought affected areas, but it's also creating jobs.
"Rail is a much better alternative to road for a myriad of reasons.
"There's little doubt the smartest and safest way of transporting goods."
The Southern Shorthaul Railroad (SSR) is already being used to support two mines near Lithgow, carting 725,000 litres per day to Centennial Coal's Charbon and Airlie mines.
"The SSR example in regional NSW is a great one," Mr Claassens said.
"Our governments should be looking at rail as a realistic, sensible solution for assisting drought-affected businesses and communities; getting trucks off our roads; and boosting employment.
"We've got to start looking at smarter ways of doing things and rail is often the answer."
Last week, Tamworth Regional Council revealed it had formed a taskforce to plan for the worst-case scenario, which includes emergency services taking over the provision of water should Chaffey Dam fall in to the low single figures.