CRITICISM has grown of environmental water releases during one of Tamworth's wettest weeks in recent memory, with one state government minister panning the decision.
Tamworth MP and Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson said the Peel Valley water sharing plan wasn't "doing its job" and called for more flexibility in its application.
Tamworth Regional Council and the community were gobsmacked as 30 megalitres of environmental water was released from the dwindling Chaffey storage into a fast-flowing Peel River.
More than 120mm of rain was recorded at Tamworth airport this week, but there was barely a trickle into the dam.
Nonetheless, the environmental release, which was a required condition as part of the construction of the Dungowan weir went ahead as scheduled.
Mr Anderson said there needs to be more flexibility in the water sharing plan.
"There has been a significant amount of around the Tamworth area and the Peel River is flowing," he said.
"The environment has been taken care of.
"There was no rain around the catchment, which is sitting at 13 per cent, let's use some common sense, pause the environmental flows, conserve the remaining water for people's consumption."
Mr Anderson had been publicly quiet on the issue up until the community and the council kicked up their frustrations this week.
The MP said he had been "working on this", having discussions with the council and writing to Water NSW about the releases.
Tamworth council water director Bruce Logan said the environmental releases would be stopped if Chaffey Dam fell to 10 per cent capacity.
However, Mr Logan and the council have spoken against the need for environmental flows in this time of intense and unprecedented drought.
"From my perspective, this is one of the things the water sharing plan and other plans put in place, in relation to this need to consider," Mr Logan said.
"Is there a better way to achieve the outcome.
"I would like to see the 30 megalitres banked in the storage so you don't release it for five or six weeks.
"When the streams stops flowing you take that water you banked and release it in a block release, so you can be sure that it will get where it needs to go in the quantity it needs to have some benefit."
NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey has been contacted for comment.