Delivering a healthy working Basin for Australia: Bathurst, NSW - a climate aware community

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2011

Program: Strengthening Basin Communities
Funding recipient: Bathurst Regional Council
Water for the Future funding $165,000
Project commencement: April 2010
Project completion: June 2011

Photo of garden demonstrating efficient water use

Efficient water use

As one of Australia’s fastest growing regional centres, Bathurst is readying itself to manage the effects of climate change and address future water security.

Bathurst Regional Council has been, and continues to be proactive, in regards to long-term water security. In 2010, Council continued this work with a new project titled Bathurst: A Climate Aware Community, thanks to a Strengthening Basin Communities grant.

The Council is reviewing its existing regional water plans and developing new plans that forecast how a changing climate could impact water operations, infrastructure and the way services are delivered to the broader community.

Bathurst Regional Council engaged consulting firm Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) to conduct the project. SKM looked at the city’s geographical location, growing population, water supply, open spaces, waterways and community strengths. They produced water supply and consumption data and pointed to two options for improving water security – reducing demand and/or maximising supply.

Council used this information to develop a plan which includes several options including water conservation, water sensitive urban design, contingency planning, and community awareness.

Stakeholders from the agricultural sector, environmental groups, Catchment Management Authorities and the business community took part in consultative sessions. They provided feedback on existing and potential water plans and identified the key risks of climate change, giving Council a better understanding of what these industries will need in the future.

The consultation sessions gave local stakeholders the opportunity to discuss key environmental, economic and social issues directly affecting them. They also discussed pressures on water resources, loss of habitat, reduced employment opportunities and agricultural production, and lower levels of economic activity.

Bathurst Regional Council is building on existing waterwise education and the need to engage the community on environmental matters. As a result, Council is developing a comprehensive education program. This program will involve community engagement and water conservation education activities designed to encourage behavioural change to ensure the region’s long term sustainability. Several local groups in the community will be engaged so the message is spread far and wide.

Clr Paul Toole, Mayor of Bathurst said community involvement is crucial to future sustainability.

“Our task is to encourage the community to look to the future. Irrespective of our current water supply we need to act now to ensure our security in years to come.

“In the coming months we will be getting this message out to the whole community through a range of activities to maintain a strong level of water security in the future.

“It’s important we engage the community regarding climate change and how it will impact our region, and discuss the actions we can take now to prevent the effects and ensure our future water security.”

Governments at all levels are working with Basin communities to achieve a healthy river system that supports strong and viable communities. Central to this is the strengthened involvement of local communities in the design and roll out of government programs.

The Australian Government is also committed to 'bridging the gap' between current water diversions and any final sustainable diversion limits in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, through water savings generated by infrastructure investments and voluntary water purchases.

Photo of Ben Chifley Dam

Ben Chifley Dam

Photo of Winburndale Dam

Winburndale Dam