Test drilling will begin this week to find ground water sources to supplement the Armidale region's town water supplies, as the region remains in Level 5 water restrictions.
The exploratory drilling will begin in and around Guyra, where a hydrogeology consultant shortlisted 10 sites that were likely to provide significant groundwater supplies with suitable water quality.
The consultant, Hydroilex, then identified 26 sites within Armidale and rural areas around the city that will also be targeted for test drilling during the next few weeks.
New England company FB Drilling has been engaged to undertake the test drilling in Guyra and Armidale.
A second contractor, Mac Drilling, will conduct the exploratory drilling in the rural locations around Armidale, starting in about a fortnight.
"Hydroilex's studies indicated the identified sites have the attributes for significant supplies of good-quality groundwater. However, we won't really know until the test drilling is done," Mayor Simon Murray said.
"It's important to note that even if these bores deliver the quantities of water we're hoping for, they will still be relatively small compared to our dam supplies. Careful water conservation will still be necessary to extend our remaining supplies until we finally get substantial rain.
"But with weather forecasters predicted lower than average rainfall in spring and summer, these bores could provide a valuable extension the region's remaining supplies," he said.
The sites chosen for test drilling have been selected because of their potential for considerable ground water supplies and their close proximity to existing water supply infrastructure, to ensure the cost of tapping the bore water into the town water supplies would be feasible.
"If the test drilling provides positive results, we would hope to have production bores providing water to the town supplies by the end of the year," Cr Murray said.
"We have the required approvals for the test drilling but would then need to go through the application processes for the production bores. We're already doing some preliminary planning processes and we're looking for possible exemptions to enable us to get the final bores in place as quickly as we can."
The test drilling and any resulting production bores will be sunk much lower than existing nearby bores, to avoid impacting on groundwater supplies already being utilised by adjacent landholders.
"We will also be using sleeves to ensure the test drilling and our bores don't have an effect on supplies for other water users," he said.