Contractors are set to begin exploration drilling next week for bores in a bid to find more water to sure up supplies for Armidale and Guyra.
Armidale Regional Council said contractors will begin works on Tuesday to find ground water sources for its dwindling town water supplies.
Hydrogeology consultant Hydroilex shortlisted 36 sites in the Guyra and Armidale areas that are likely to provide significant groundwater supplies with suitable water quality.
"If the test drilling identifies suitable ground water sources, and we have a clear picture of locations for production bores, we will keep the community informed about those sites," Mayor Simon Murray said.
The sites are on public land, near roads and power supplies, but Cr Murray said the drilling and bore operations would not affect adjacent landholders. Council will also liaise with landholders near the production bores to outline the project and address any concerns.
Hydroilex's studies have identified sites with the right attributes for significant supplies of good-quality groundwater, Cr Murray said, but operations were still in the preliminary stages, until water is found in those locations.
"For that reason, we have shortlisted 36 sites for exploration, with the expectation that only a small proportion of them will be used to supply water," Cr Murray said.
The mayor said the test drilling and subsequent production bores would be sunk several times deeper than existing nearby bores, to avoid tapping into on groundwater supplies already used by adjacent landholders.
While the existing bores are generally between 30 and 50m deep, the bores council proposes will be around 150m deep to access ground water supplies suitable to supplement the region's existing water storages.
"If the test drilling finds other ground water supplies above the targeted water sources, water-tight sleeves will be fitted for the test drilling and production bores to ensure the shallower supply is not affected," Cr Murray said.
Contractor FB Drilling is undertaking the test drilling in Guyra and Armidale. A second contractor, Mac Drilling, will conduct the exploratory drilling in the rural locations around Armidale, expected to begin in late October.
Level 5 water restrictions are in place for town water users in Guyra and Armidale. Remaining dam supplies are expected to run out in around 420 days without significant rainfall.
"We're optimistic the groundwater supplies could push back that Day Zero," Cr Murray said. "But 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 by households and business is essential to extend our remaining supplies until we get substantial rain."