A WATER extraction breach at the Scott Road Drift Wells could mean Tamworth can only use dwindling supplies at Chaffey Dam even in an emergency situation.
The issue cropped up at last night's Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) meeting during a discussion about writing to NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey. Council wants to have water once lost in transit before the new Chaffey Dam pipeline saved for town water security.
It all started with a question from councillor Glenn Inglis, who asked TRC water director Bruce Logan whether council had recommenced water extraction from the wells.
The council reported itself to the Natural Resource Access Regulator (NRAR) for taking "well in excess" of its allocation in June, and could face a hefty fine or even legal action.
"There are six wells down there and two of them are considered surface licences and we have never stopped pumping from those; we haven't stopped pumping from those in the new water year," Mr Logan said last night.
"The other four as you know we over-extracted, and I was under the impression that once we got to the end of the water year we could start again.
"The access regulator [NRAR] has advised me informally, and they are looking to formalise those comments, that in fact we have to - how do I put this - we have to fill up the hole left by our over-extraction before we can start extracting again from the four wells."
The council has refused to confirm the amount of water it took from the wells.
It means TRC will need to buy water on the open market to pay back what it wasn't entitled to pump, before it is allowed to use any more water from the wells.
Asked if he had any more questions, Cr Inglis said it only gave him "about 10 thousand more questions".
Mr Logan confirmed that in the new water year, Tamworth would not be able to take any extra water from the wells unless it purchased it on the open market.
If it does not purchase water on the open market, it will have to draw from Chaffey Dam which sits at 15 per cent.
Residents may be forced onto a 100L-per-person-per-day limit sooner than expected.
NRAR is yet to finalise its investigation.