There are several actions that can be taken to shore up Tamworth's water security using the $6 milllion the state budget recently allocated to the region, but a local advocacy group says the most important step can be taken for free.
"The first and foremost step needs to be amending the water sharing plan, needs to give town water supply the highest priority, meaning 100 per cent allocation in the first and second year of the allocation cycle," Tamworth Water Security Alliance member Graham Carter said.
"Currently the plan places priority in the second year on irrigation access above town water supply."
The Peel Valley Water Sharing Plan is the state government's set of rules for how water is allocated between Tamworth Regional Council, irrigators, and environmental maintenance.
"If it's going to cost any money on implementation, or better management for irrigators, we need to set that money aside," Mr Carter said.
"The fact that this hasn't been actioned over the past five years needs to be looked into, and it suggests the influence of the irrigators over the town."
The Member for Tamworth says he's also on board with using the state funds to get the water purification plant over the line.
Kevin Anderson said using the funds on a "final" business case for Tamworth's proposed industrial water recycling plant would "attract further funding from all levels of government for what would likely be a $100 million project".
Tamworth mayor Russell Webb previously told the Leader he hadn't "seen the fine print" on the budget allocation yet, but said he hoped a chunk of it could be spent on the water purification plant to get it "shovel ready".
However, the water security alliance is quick to point out there are no shortage of issues in Tamworth's water supply that need addressing, including more than 200 actions the local council has identified for improving stormwater management.
"They just had this stormwater report about upgrading or maintaining the current infrastructure to a satisfactory standard that it doesn't leak," Tamworth Water Security Alliance member Lyn Allen said.
Stormwater runoff, a by-product of rainfall, has proven a challenge for the region to navigate as it continues to grow and develop.
"I feel with that amount of money they might be better off fixing up what they actually have to a really good condition," Ms Allen said.
"We could get more bang for our buck doing that than pouring it all into the water recycling plant before we know we have enough money for it.
"I know that won't increase Tamworth's water, but it would help clean the water and maybe keep some of the stormwater from running off onto buildings and car parks."
Lastly, the water alliance said it wants more long-term planning for periods of drought, especially as hot and dry conditions from El Nino weather patterns become longer and more intense as a result of climate change.
"The variability of climate is increasing, and is the planning period sufficient to take into account that variability," Mr Carter said.
"Allocating water every two years may not be sufficient, we may need to go for a longer planning cycle.
"We need to be future-proofing our allocation decisions as opposed to retroactively looking."
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