Delivering a healthy working Basin for Australia: Lower Macquarie Valley, New South Wales
Program: Strengthening Basin Communities
Funding recipient: Narromine Shire Council and Warren Shire Council
Water for the Future Grant: $388,700
Project commencement: June 2010
A new project is helping two local governments in Western New South Wales adapt to a new water planning future.
Narromine and Warren Shire Councils joined together to apply for Australian Government funding through the Strengthening Basin Communities program to help them work out ways of coping with potential future water reductions.
An irrigated cotton farm in Warren Shire, NSW
Photo: Geoffrey Croke
"This is an important activity for our councils as it will help formulate a response to the future Basin Plan policy and deal with the longterm challenges posed by climate change," general manager of Warren Shire Council, Ashley Wielinga said.
"Narromine and Warren shires are strong agricultural communities, so we have evaluated the impact of reduced water on agricultural and related industries, as well as on councils and communities."
The project involves an economic and social impact assessment of the region. The results of this assessment will be presented to the councils and the community, and an adaptation plan will be developed with stakeholder input.
"We're looking at the impact of reduced water from climate change and policy," Ashley said. "It's likely that policy change will have more of an effect than climate change, so this project will look at socio-economic changes and assess our economic and social capital."
"This is like a stocktake of how things are now, how we've already been affected and how the district will be affected in the future."
"The data we're gathering is a guide to what could happen in the future. We'll then look at how we could operate under the different climate change scenarios. Those scenarios are varied because we just don't know how wet or dry it could be."
Like other similar local government projects, this one has involved tendering for qualified consultants to carry out the detailed research, while drawing on skills and knowledge that exist within the community.
A consultancy firm is carrying out the research and producing the adaptation plan to help the councils cope with potential future water reductions.
"We've involved many local organisations such as the Catchment Management Authority and the regional food and fibre group, as well as running community workshops," Ashley said.
Macquarie Marshes, NSW
Photo: Daniel A'Vard
"We've run workshops and community discussion forums on the main issues arising from the socioeconomic assessment. Thanks to these forums, the final plan will be of real, practical use to our communities and industries."
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.