A NEWLY released regional water strategy floats the idea of taking from the Coxs River near Lithgow or from the Lachlan Valley to help meet the thirst of a rapidly growing Bathurst. The Macquarie-Castlereagh Regional Water Strategy has set out to create a plan that will meet the region's water needs for at least the next 20 years after a recent period in which a grinding drought was followed by severe flooding. The document says water demand will grow along with the population in "upper Macquarie" communities such as Bathurst and Orange and reducing that demand and investing in stormwater harvesting schemes may not alone prevent the cities from running dry in a severe drought. The document says the Coxs River catchment and Fish River Water Supply Scheme straddle the border between the Macquarie-Castlereagh region and the Sydney catchment. "The water from the rivers, dams and groundwater sources in this border area supplies water customers in the Greater Sydney Metropolitan area, power generation, mines, and the townships of Oberon, Lithgow and surrounding villages," the document says. "This option [of the water strategy] proposes to investigate augmenting Bathurst and Orange's water supplies with water from the Fish River Scheme or the Coxs River catchment. "This could include assessing water availability from Duckmaloi Creek. The water could be delivered via the Fish River or pipelines. "Our initial analysis shows that an annual water entitlement of 4.6 GL from the Fish River Scheme could reduce Bathurst's risk of water supply shortfalls." The challenge in the short term, according to the regional water strategy, is securing this water from existing licence holders. "Over the longer term, water from the Fish River Scheme and the Coxs River near Lithgow could become available as coal-fired power stations close down and water that is currently dedicated to these power generation companies is redeployed," the document says. "While the Wallerawang Power Station near Lithgow has shut down and the Mt Piper Power Station is currently scheduled to close by 2040, it is not clear whether, or when, this freed up water will become available. "If it becomes available, there will be competing demands for it, as it could also be used to reduce the water security risks for towns in the Blue Mountains or Lithgow, support economic growth and new industries in the Lithgow region or be held by Aboriginal people for cultural and economic purposes. "Progressing this action will involve further assessment of whether and when water may become available, design of infrastructure, the impacts on customer pricing, and the benefits or trade-offs of using the water for other needs. "The financial costs associated with paying for water from the Fish River Scheme may be significant for water users. "This option will need to ensure there are no adverse impacts on water security for Oberon or Sydney's Blue Mountains area." Bathurst Regional Council sought to buy a water allocation from the Oberon Dam and Fish River Scheme during the height of the most recent drought, but received a knockback from the NSW Government. Council was advised at the time that the water "would be required to meet the critical supply needs for other customers, including the Blue Mountains". IN terms of taking water from a different direction, the water strategy document says "the eastern part of the Lachlan Valley includes a range of state-owned and council-owned water storages that support the water needs of towns, industry and the environment in the Lachlan Valley". "There is already a pipeline connection from Orange into the Lachlan Valley, and there is an opportunity to consider whether water from the Lachlan Valley could help reduce future water security risks for Bathurst and Orange," the document says. "Impacts on the Lachlan Valley of these options will also need to be considered. The viability of this option for Orange and Bathurst will depend on how effective this option is in reducing Bathurst's and Orange's water security risks compared to other options presented in this strategy." The document says mixed feedback has been received on such an idea: from the view that Wyangala Dam [the impoundment for the Lachlan River] should function as a regional water source and that inter-regional pipeline connections should be progressed as a priority through to views that water transfer between catchments should be avoided or only used in emergency situations. A wall-raising at Wyangala - which was announced during the most recent drought - was killed off in September this year when the new Minns state government cited the cost and potential "substantial and irreversible environmental impacts". THE water strategy document also considers the idea of a new dam on the Macquarie River at Dixon's Long Point, west of Hill End. "Our analysis suggests a dam of 20-30 GL capacity could meet Orange's long-term water needs," the document says. However, "given the large cost and downstream impacts associated with a dam", other options may be more cost-effective "for reducing Orange's water security risks in the short to medium term", it says. "There is merit in further investigating new infrastructure in the upper Macquarie and comparing it against alternative options," the document says. "Potential impacts on the reliability of water for downstream needs, and the cultural and environmental impacts of new infrastructure, would need to be addressed." The water strategy document has been produced by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment. WHILE analysis continues on Bathurst's future needs, work is progressing on the city's stormwater harvesting scheme. Ground was broken at the project's main site late last year. The scheme will be capable of harvesting urban stormwater and rural runoff from Vale and Jordan creeks and is estimated to be able to provide for approximately one-third of the city's water needs. 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