The state government has launched a strategy to improve Tamworth's water security, but local groups say they're tired of politicians' promises.
A raft of water-saving measures have been proposed for the city in the state government's new Regional Water Strategy, but the Tamworth Water Security Alliance says the time for strategising is over.
"We look at it as a side-step to the real issues of doing something," alliance member Graham Carter said.
Mr Carter said some of the strategy's 27 actions are promising, but with the encroaching threat of an El Nino-induced drought, the city doesn't have time to waste on plans that won't go anywhere.
"We're encouraged that the water minister is calling for evidence-based solutions, but some of the projects proposed are 19th-century solutions to a 21st-century problem," he said.
NSW Minister for Water Rose Jackson said the newly-launched Namoi Regional Water Strategy will bolster Tamworth's drought resilience over the next two decades.
"What the regional water strategy does is provide a shortlist of options we can pursue to secure water security in the Namoi region. Some of those things have a long lead time, some of them we can do quickly," the minister said.
But Mr Carter said certain options, like building pipelines linking Tamworth to the Manning Valley, are an "economic non-starter".
Ms Jackson, however, said all options should be on the table to allow for both short-term and longer-term planning.
"What I am determined to do it put all of those options out there. Some of them are not going to stack up, but we're going to look at them and be honest about it and pursue the ones that are."
She also pushed back on the idea that scrapping the replacement Dungowan Dam project has sent Tamworth's water security back to square one.
"It's not back to square one entirely, but far too much time and money was wasted on the Dungowan Dam project, which was never fully funded and never going to fully solve the water security problems in Tamworth," she said.
Mr Carter said the alliance supports the decision to send Dungowan Dam 2.0 down the drain.
"That was a no-brainer. It was uneconomic, unneeded, and a distraction from the real water issues of water management," Mr Carter said.
The Dungowan Dam project had a $1.28 billion price tag and was set to deliver only 27 cents worth of benefits for every dollar spent.
With the project officially flushed, Tamworth Regional Council has been working closely with the state water minister to get a state-of-the-art water purification facility off the ground instead.
Ms Jackson confirmed she's had multiple meetings with mayor Russell Webb to expedite the project, but said that getting approval for such a cutting-edge facility is difficult for a regional centre.
"This is the first project of this kind in regional NSW, and the mayor is right that they're right at the cutting-edge in terms of approvals that they need from NSW Health, in terms of Environmental Impact Statements they need from the planning department," she said.
"Being a first-mover has it's advantages and I think it's fantastic that Tamworth council has been so innovative, but I won't deny that there's not an established framework for approving facilities of this scale."
But the Tamworth Water Security Alliance says it isn't impressed with that line of reasoning.
"The time for that sort of excuse is over, it's infuriating, and it's disrespectful to the Tamworth community," Mr Carter said.
"We've been campaigning for it for the past three years. It's ridiculous that we don't have recycling facilities in one of the driest continents in the world, where drought is a part of our daily lives."
Ms Jackson pointed the finger at the previous government for slowing down efforts to drought-proof the city.
"Unlike the previous government I'm not going to just charge ahead with options we haven't costed or looked at," she said.
Former water minister and Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson refused to comment.
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