A ground water supply network being constructed in Guyra is guided by a specialist hydrogeologist report which advises there are “no recognised groundwater dependent ecosystems” near the bore sites, Council’s General Manager Businesses, Scot MacDonald, reaffirmed today.
“The hydrogeologist’s study and the NSW NPWS draft management plan confirm the Mother of Ducks Lagoon is fed by surface water run-off and not reliant on groundwater systems ,” Mr MacDonald said.
“We gave an undertaking to make the hydrogeology report public and there is now a link on the Water Supply page of Council’s website.”
“The State Government’s Natural Resource Access Regulator will review Council’s Water Access Licence application and, as part of that process, will investigate possible impacts on natural systems,” he said.
“Until the Regulator has finished its assessment and granted a permanent licence, Council won’t be operating the bores and the ground water supply network unless water security returns to emergency conditions (as permitted under the exemption granted to Council under Section 39A). The licence approval would include a cap on the volume of water we can draw from the bores, to ensure sustainable extraction.
“We only plan to activate the ground water supply network when dam levels become low i.e. around 30% in Malpas Dam. Any authorised extraction would be short term and within sustainable extraction limits,” he said.
“While that approval process is underway, we’re taking the responsible action of putting the ground water supply network in place so it’s ready to activate to provide our region with greater water security. We are seeing this infrastructure takes months to complete so it is prudent to be ready before the next drought.”
Mr MacDonald said the ground water supply network was commissioned at the height of the drought, when Guyra Dam was nearly empty in 2019 and the region’s water supply was on track to run out in early 2020.
“We are officially still in drought and though we have received some rain in the first half of this year our water security is still uncertain. Our region’s overall supply is just over half full, similar to levels this time last year, and without further substantial rain, we could find ourselves return to severe water shortages. It is important the Armidale Regional Council LGA remains on Level 5 water restrictions until our storages return to normal levels.” he said.
“The ground water network will be an important strategy to diversify our supply and, in combination with water conservation measures, would give greater security for our residents and businesses.
Mr MacDonald said while water security was essential for the community, Council is conscious of the significance of Mother of Ducks Lagoon Nature Reserve.
“Council understands it is a rare and valuable wetland. We appreciate it is a refuge for migratory birds and rare species, Council will continue to work with the National Parks and Wildlife Service to improve its management. The Lagoon has had significant man made changes over the past century. Nevertheless we appreciate its value to locals and visitors.” he said.
“While water security is fundamental, we would not undertake any action unless we had the evidence that it would not impact on environmental assets such as Mother of Ducks Lagoon.”
Council recently conducted two community webinars and a follow-up Q&A session about the Guyra Ground Water Supply Network, including the hydrogeologist report, the approvals process and neighbouring ecosystems. Recordings of all those sessions are available on Council’s Your Say Armidale website.