Dubbo, New South Wales
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2011
- Delivering a healthy working Basin for Australia: Water for the Future Local Story - Dubbo, New South Wales (PDF - 558 KB)
Program: Strengthening Basin Communities
Funding recipient: Dubbo City Council
Water for the Future funding $193,000
Project commencement: January 2010
Project completion: November 2011
Sport is a big part of the Dubbo community
Dubbo City Council is undertaking a project to tackle decreasing river flows and groundwater and to keep the city thriving.
“Dubbo's economy is worth $2 billion in gross product each year,” the Council's Director, Technical Services, Stewart McLeod said.
“In terms of water, this equates to about $300,000 in productivity per megalitre of water used.”
“If irrigation productivity declines further in the Murray-Darling Basin, towns like Dubbo can help the Basin economy by using a small amount of water to generate high levels of productivity and attract new industries to town.”
“For that to work, we need a reliable water supply. Without water there is no town. The biggest sector in our economy is retail, and if populations decline as a result of water, then it affects all businesses.”
The Council began its project by compiling data on water dependent industries in Dubbo and then tested what reduced water availability could mean for those industries. A planning workshop explored the potential for stormwater harvesting, groundwater bores, reducing water demand and attracting new water-based industries.
“Dubbo is a major centre, it needs to keep a high standard of amenity and economic prosperity for itself and the region,” Stewart said.
“We expect existing water licenses won't be sufficient to cater for population growth and climate change. As a result, we will need to pursue stormwater harvesting, free up extraction licenses for local government, new groundwater recovery and aquifer recharge.”
Stewart adds there is no magic bullet solution, and that the Council will have to develop a suite of strategies.
“We're developing practical strategies for the short and long term,” he said. “For example, in the long term, if we want more groundwater resources, we need to buy agricultural properties upstream that contain existing groundwater bores, which is an expensive exercise.
“In the short term, we're looking at stormwater harvesting schemes in the city and initiatives to meet demand. Yet these initiatives will only generate small amounts of water, so we'll need a mix of solutions over time. One option we're examining is injecting the harvested stormwater into aquifers for storage, which also has environmental benefits.”
The Council is also keeping in mind the social benefits of good water management in the future.
Japanese Gardens, Dubbo
“People are more likely to move to a large regional centre that has green playing fields and houses with nice lawns and gardens,” Stewart said.
“Dubbo's playing fields are renowned throughout the state and we get lots of sporting tournaments here that generate tourism income. We believe it's important to people's wellbeing to live in a green environment.”
The project was funded through the Australian Government's Strengthening Basin Communities program.
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.