THE study that will determine the long-term water fate of the region may not be finished until the end of 2020, the NSW Water Minister has revealed.
Despite drought conditions officially settling in around mid-2017, preliminary work on the Namoi Regional Water Strategy only started in April, after the Coalition was re-elected.
A spokesperson for NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey said the study, due to be completed by the end of 2020, would identify "the most effective mix of options" to secure the region's long-term water future.
"All viable infrastructure and policy options are being considered through the development of the strategies in each region," the spokesperson said.
More Water Pressure stories:
"This includes any options identified through other initiatives, such as the WaterNSW 20 Year Infrastructure Options study, where these are likely to deliver regional benefits.
"This does not preclude any options being progressed more urgently if it is demonstrated that they are worthwhile as stand-alone projects."
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson said it was unlikely that any money would be allocated to building water infrastructure in the Namoi and Peel catchments until the report was completed.
"You can't allocate money if you don't know what you're allocating it to, and how much you need," Mr Anderson said.
Ms Pavey's spokesperson said the study would be developed in consultation with key stakeholders and the broader community to "make sure that expert local knowledge and experience" informs the assessment.
"The strategy will then be finalised and recommendations made to government on the most effective mix of options so that investment decisions can be made," the spokesperson said.
The NSW government is conducting regional water studies across the state.
On the NSW Department of Industry's website, it lists studies for the Lower Hunter, Gwydir, Macquarie, Lachlan, Far North Coast and South Coast catchments.
However, the Namoi catchment is not listed.
The Greater Hunter Regional Water study has been completed and was published in November last year.