ONE of the state's biggest waterway advocacy groups is urging the NSW Government to not overlook other water security measures in favour of the new Dungowan Dam.
The new dam near Tamworth, which is expected to cost $480 million, has yet to have its business case finalised and advocacy group Northern Inland Rivers Network (NIRN) is urging the government not to ignore suggestions made in its own Namoi Regional Water Strategy in favour of the dam.
"We have a once in a generation opportunity to invest in new technologies and reduce the demand on precious water supplies," NIRN president Bev Smiles said.
"We don't want to see this opportunity for investment in positive outcomes lost because the government is rusted on to last century thinking. Dams do not make water.
"Yet the National Party are stubbornly clinging to an outdated notion that building dams somehow creates more water, when all they do is shift water from people in the lower catchment and damage the river in the process."
A review into the proposed project by the Productivity Commission, as part of its National Water Reform, found that increases in construction costs could see the development blow its estimated $480 million budget.
"Clearly the dam plan doesn't make economic sense and the community deserves to see the business case before a funding decision is made," Ms Smiles said.
"The promise that the expensive Dungowan dam could provide new water in a fully allocated system is an illusion.
"All this dam would do is deny the environment and water users downstream of their entitlements, and for those upstream send the price of water sky high."
A spokesperson for NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey said a variety of water security options were being explored.
"We welcome feedback from our stakeholders and the local community on how we can best deliver better water security," the spokesperson said.
"We know that there is not a 'one-size-fits-all' solution when it comes to protecting our most vulnerable communities from the pain and anguish of drought.
"This is why we are pursuing a range of measures, including infrastructure projects and water management reforms, to help deliver greater water security to the people of Tamworth and the Peel Valley.
WaterNSW has been carrying out comprehensive engagement with the local community where a number of potential solutions have been raised to boost or complement the benefits the proposed dam could bring."
As for the cost of the dam, the spokesperson said any "assessment or analysis of cost estimates" before the business case was complete would be premature and possibly inaccurate.
"Too often the lessons brutally dealt out at the peak of droughts are forgotten when the rain comes," the spokesperson said.
"This coalition government will not make that mistake and we refuse to force regional families and businesses to make a decision between running out of water or leaving town.
"Building dams is historically an expensive and complicated process to undertake. That is not a good enough excuse to quit and throw our hands up in the air crying 'it is all too hard'.
"We are focused on building robust systems to store the water as it falls, ensuring it is used efficiently and recycled where possible to best service the community's needs.
"The value of these projects cannot be measured in dollars alone. These are critical pieces of infrastructure that will go a long way to future-proofing the Tamworth community's water supply for many years to come."
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