THERE are calls for a temporary ban on groundwater pumping around Maules Creek, with residents pointing to a recent fish kill as the "canary in the coal mine".
The waterway has been reduced to just a few mud-filled puddles, crowded with dying fish, which locals say is a sign the underground aquifer that feeds the creek is under a great deal of stress.
Maules Creek CWA president Libby Laird is worried that if the aquifer continues to be pumped without any recharge inflows, it could be left "beyond repair".
"What we're seeing is the system retract back to the point of just a few slimy pools, which is a really bad indication of what's going on underneath in terms of water quality and amount of water," Mrs Laird said.
"That's when you know the system is really depleted."
Maules Creek CWA has penned a letter to the NSW Department of Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, requesting a temporary restriction on groundwater extraction in Zone 11 (the area surrounding Maules Creek).
The only exceptions would be stock and domestic licences holders, who are relatively small water consumers in Zone 11, using only 69 megalitres annually.
"We have a history of putting this in place and it's work in the past," Mrs Laird said.
"The trigger point last time was when Maules Creek stopped flowing and we are well past that point."
The Maules Creek fish kill is among the first to be reported since last summer. The state government is preparing for a horror season of fish kills as the warmer months roll around.
"Those fish are the canaries in the coal mine for the environment," Mrs Laird said.
"When even the carp are dying - they're usually the survivors - you know it's pretty bad.
"If nothing changes, the aquifer's quality of water is going to be unusable and the amount of water will be depleted.
"The aquifer could be irreversibly damaged, as will be the communities."
MORE WATER PRESSURE STORIES