Port Macquarie-Hastings Council is planning ahead as it looks to ensure the region has a resilient and sustainable water supply for future generations.
With the planning work done for the Port Macquarie-Hastings Water Security Plan, the next step is to incorporate the information into the blueprint and present it to the community for feedback.
The region from 2017 to 2019 experienced the worst drought on record. Rainfall and river flows in 2019 were the lowest in recorded history.
A report to the June council meeting said many lessons and insights had been gained from this drought, allowing them to be incorporated into the water security plan to ensure even with a growing population, the water supply could continue to be secure.
The population of customers connected to the water supply is expected to reach about 111,800 people over the next 30 years. That is an increase of about 33,800 people.
The council operates the Port Macquarie-Camden Haven, Wauchope, Telegraph Point, Comboyne and Long Flat water supply schemes.
The Port Macquarie-Camden Haven and Wauchope water supply schemes are the largest schemes sourcing water from the Hastings River at Koree Island near Wauchope.
Water is also stored in the off-creek Cowarra and Port Macquarie dams.
There are small localised schemes servicing Telegraph Point, Comboyne and Long Flat - Telegraph Point via extraction from the Wilson River, Comboyne via pumping from the Thone River and Long Flat through extraction from the Hastings River.
Councillors discussed the future water security plan when an update went before the June council meeting.
The council noted the construction of a bulk water treatment plant is a critical water security project.
Planning and design work is underway. It will provide water security out to 2052, even with a growing population.
The bulk water treatment plant would allow the full storage volumes within the Cowarra and Port Macquarie dams to be counted towards supply, as well as allowing the quality restrictions for extracting water from the Hastings River to be eased, the council report said.
The council noted drought response planning needs to be undertaken now before the next drought to ensure actions are ready to go to prevent an emergency situation.
It also agreed to start investigations and feasibility studies into rainfall independent water sources to inform the drought response actions.
Cr Rachel Sheppard moved an alterative to the staff recommendation, with changes around community engagement.
She spoke about the importance of bringing the community into the conversation as soon as possible.
Cr Sheppard, who noted the excellent work done by staff on this matter for an extended period of time, said she hoped community engagement would allow residents to feel a great sense of confidence in the local leadership to facilitate this element of regional self-sufficiency and water self-sufficiency into the future.
The council unanimously endorsed the staff recommendation after it was put forward as an amendment by deputy mayor Adam Roberts.
Cr Roberts said engagement and water security were incredibly important.
"I don't think we are on separate pages here, for me, it is just about process and doubling down on some of the work we are already doing," Cr Roberts said.
Cr Lisa Intemann commended the council staff and reiterated the importance of water security.
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