Federal water minister Tanya Plibersek says we need to be smarter about the type of infrastructure we invest in, making sure that the benefits go to communities as well as commercial uses when it comes to water security.
Ms Plibersek was one of the speakers at the Bush Summit in Tamworth.
"In the past, we could only invest in these big water projects if they had an agriculture benefit or an industry benefit," she told those present.
"All of the scientific evidence tells us we're going into a hotter, drier period, and we need to prepare for that."
She said the government will be looking at other "innovative proposals" raised by the Tamworth Regional Council, after the federal government pulled the plug on funding for Dungowan Dam earlier this year.
"Infrastructure Australia said this was the worst benefit cost ratio of any project they had ever examined [and that it] had a benefit cost ratio of 0.09," Ms Plibersek said.
"What that means in 'human-speak' is that for every dollar spent on this project, there would be a benefit of nine cents. So spend one dollar and you get nine cents back."
Ms Plibersek said the federal government will be looking at a range of "innovative proposals" to secure Tamworth's water supply, including the Namoi Regional River Strategy.
On the Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP), Ms Plibersek said the plan won't meet its current targets without extending the timeframe beyond June 2024 and introducing further water buy backs.
"On the current trajectory we're on we would be about 750 gigalitres short ... that's about 300,000 Olympic sized swimming pools, short of where we're supposed to be by June 2024," Ms Plibersek said.
"We think, as a government, that the more sensible thing to do is to work with the states and territories, still to achieve the objectives of the plan, but to do it over a more reasonable time period."
She said the federal government currently has a 44 gigalitre voluntary "water purchase program" open for people looking to sell their water to the government.
"We've had people put in submissions for water that they're interested in selling and we're evaluating those at the moment," Ms Plibersek said.
The new $55 million pipeline connects the Calala Water Treatment Plant in Tamworth to the Dungowan Showgrounds, helping save up to 2.2 megalitres of water per day.
"This pipeline is an example of how upgrading water networks can make a big difference in helping to improve the sustainability of water supplies," Ms Plibersek said in a statement.
"The new pipeline has replaced leaking 70-year-old infrastructure that was in such poor condition that Tamworth council was spending significant amounts on band-aid solutions to try and stem the water losses every year."
The pipeline has also been joined to the Chaffey Dam pipeline that was completed in 2020 to transfer water to Tamworth during drought emergencies when supplies hit rock bottom.
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