Delivering a healthy working Basin for Australia: Wentworth, Balranald, Hay, New South Wales

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

Program: Strengthening Basin Communities
Funding recipient: Wentworth Shire Council Consortium
Water for the Future funding: $600,000
Project commencement: January 2010
Project completion: December 2011

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Local vineyard

In January 2010, the Councils of Wentworth, Balranald and Hay formed the Wentworth Shire Council Consortium, to plan for the future.

Peter Kozlowski, General Manager, Wentworth Shire Council said a community planning project, funded through the Australian Government's Strengthening Basin Communities program, is expected to show the Councils their vulnerability to changes in water security, their communities and future economies.

“The study will help the three Councils better manage Council owned water assets and manage the impacts of reduced rainfall and depleted water supplies,” Peter said.

There are three stages to the 18 month project. The first stage, now complete, involved a study of socio-economic status, and rural land and water use in each shire, this showed how the region has been shaped by changes in water availability and water policy since 2000.

“The first stage really illustrated the change our region has experienced over the past decade and what is driving that change – there are many influences including drought, irrigation water availability and reduced water allocations that are impacting our whole community,” said Peter.

The second stage of the project, which is currently underway, looks at plausible alternative scenarios of what the future may hold, identifying the implications, taking into account trends and drivers of change, water trade, scenario planning and risk.

In the final stage of the project, detailed plans will address water supplies and economic development using the findings from the first two stages. It will also look at ways to meet demand and supply.

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Clean waterways

Peter said new fit-for-purpose water sources will be assessed for each municipality.

“This could be treated wastewater, stormwater, water generated by improved efficiency, portable water substitution or unallocated groundwater,” Peter said.

During this stage, Councils will also renew economic and community development planning consistent with the projected changes.

To involve the local community, a reference group has been set up covering a broad cross section of community sectors within each of the Shires. Members provide the link between the community and the steering committee and provide local knowledge and input into the planning stages of the project.

The project, which will map out a sustainable future for the three communities is scheduled for completion in December 2011.

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.

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Healthy pastures