OWNERSHIP of the Chaffey Dam pipeline might be off the cards for Tamworth Regional Council.
The council has formally written to Water Minister Melinda Pavey requesting the ownership and operation of the fast-tracked 18.2km pipeline, mayor Col Murray said.
"The message I was hearing, and I'm confident that is the message that was given is that it's probably unlikely that the state would devolve of ownership of the pipeline, but there might be some further consideration of the operation which is the really important part for council," he said.
Residents can expect a modest increase to water rates to cover the costs of the multi-million dollar pipeline and its ongoing maintenance.
Any increase in water rates would first be reviewed by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.
At the end of the day the cost of the pipeline, which has seen water moved from Chaffey Dam to the Calala Water Treatment plant with no transmission losses for the first time, would have to be accounted for by the community, Cr Murray said.
"There will be those ownership costs, the maintenance costs, the management costs, somebody will have to pass on those costs and the only people they can pass to are the users of the water which is all of us in the community," he said.
"So we are going to be faced with some additional water costs, they should only be fairly modest and they will be subject to IPART review, but it would be great if we could manage the pipeline from an operational perspective.
"As distinct from most local government bodies council does have quite a lot of experience and capacity to maintain a pipeline like that."
The council, Ms Pavey and Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson met last week to discuss unresolved issues with the Peel, Upper and Lower Namoi water sharing plans and the new pipeline.
WaterNSW manages the pipeline as it stands, but Ms Pavey would be responsible for the ultimate decision to relinquish ownership of it.
The new pipeline adjoins the council-owned and managed Dungowan pipeline, so if the council isn't granted management of the new pipeline there could be two operators on the one supply system.
A spokesman for the operator said it was collaborating effectively with TRC through the current testing process, which included integration into the existing Dungowan network.
"We expect this relationship to continue once the pipeline becomes fully operational," he said.
"WaterNSW will operate and maintain the pipeline, between Chaffey Dam and Dungowan, and as such we plan to work closely with TRC on defining the required levels of service.
"While testing has been positive and without any major issues, our commissioning process, as agreed with TRC, will continue into late-May and early-June to ensure a smooth and reliable transition."
There is no indication at this stage as to when TRC will receive formal notice of whether it will be granted ownership or operation of the pipeline.