THREE chicken farms near Tamworth will be forced to close down in mid November due to a lack of water, if three dams aren't constructed in time.
Poultry producer ProTen has made two dam development applications, with a third to follow soon, to allow it to store enough water to see out summer once the Peel River has been cut off to conserve Tamworth's drinking supply.
The three farms at Gidley, Bective and Murrami supply 40 per cent of the total chicken volume in the region, and there are fears if they cease to operate, there would be a "major shortfall in supply" to Baiada's local processing plant, that would have "employment implications".
The company requested council fast track the "urgent and critical" proposals - the dams will take three to four weeks to construct, while the NSW government has indicated it will cut the Peel's flow on November 30.
It's a tight timeframe, but ProTen CEO Bill Williams is confident it'll be met.
"We'll have the dams built, it's just a matter of how much water we can put in them before they cut the river off," Mr Williams said.
"We're a long-term partner of the Tamworth chicken industry and it's a big investment that's necessary to keep the plant going. There are 20 employees across the three farms, but the bigger issue is keeping the plant going."
The Gidley (34ML) and Bective (31ML) dams will provide six months of water. The largest farm, Murrami, will have 75ML dam, which is a 12-month supply.
All up, it's expected to cost ProTen more than $1 million.
Mr Williams said ProTen was also investigating multiple bores on all three sites, with the hope of using groundwater to supply the farm's future needs.
"We're doing some test drilling at the moment and if they're successful, we'll apply for groundwater licences," Mr Williams said.
"It's unknown [if there's enough groundwater] until we get down there and see what's available.
"This is an unprecedented drought and we're being as proactive as possible, and putting in place whatever measures we can. Hopefully there is a long-term solution down the track."
ProTen has been in consultation with Water NSW and Tamworth Regional Council for months about a contingency plan for its water situation.
"I'm very pleased that everyone is moving proactively to get this through," Mr Williams said.