The new Dungowan Dam project in the northern New South Wales (NSW) city of Tamworth received a major funding boost on Monday, with the National Party pledging $433 million (US$330.3 million) as part of the federal government’s commitment.
This investment takes the feds’ contribution to $675 million, which includes prior funding for field and ancillary works, while the NSW government will foot the other half of the bill, which is expected to come in at $1.28 billion.
This comes after the Prime Minister and then NSW Premier announced the planning and delivery of three new dam upgrades, one of which was replacing the old Dungowan Dam in 2019.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Barnaby Joyce, said that water is equivalent to wealth and dams to banks that drive regional Australia and support the growth of cities and towns.
“The Nationals have put up to $433 million in additional funding on the table to build Dungowan Dam because we believe in the project and we believe in the region it will support,” he said.
“Without water, our town stops. The coffee shops and hairdressers won’t open, the abattoirs will shut down and all of the industries that underpin our standard of living will disappear.”
At 58 metres (190 feet) high, and with a catchment area of 175 square kilometres (68 square miles), the new Dungowan Dam will increase the town water supply for Tamworth’s projected population growth, as well as bring sustained reliability of water for agriculture in the Peel Valley.
Member for Tamworth and Minister for Lands and Water, Kevin Anderson, said the NSW government would continue working towards securing the approvals required to reach the final investment decision.
“Secure water supply is critical to the future of Tamworth and the Peel Valley and that is why we are getting on with the job of bringing this dam to a final investment decision,” he said.
However, a spokesperson from the Nature Conservation Council told The Epoch Times that a new dam isn’t the solution to Tamworth’s future water needs.
“Dams deny access to people further downstream, deny water to downstream environments,” she said.
“We don’t need this dam,” she added, stressing that the best solution for Tamworth and the way of the future is to reduce demand for water through purification of recycled water, stormwater harvesting at a city planning level, and rainwater harvesting systems for every building.
“Tamworth would make a great case study for this recycled water approach,” she said.
Meanwhile, Inland Rivers Network President Beverley Smiles told ABC New England in late February that while the project is to build a dam that will hold 22.5 billion litres (5.9 billion gallons) of water, the average annual yield from the dam is predicted to be between six and seven billion litres.
“So if we’ve got a dam that’s going to cost near a billion dollars, that is very expensive water,” she said.
“And there’s groups like the Tamworth Water Security Alliance that are looking at other alternatives that would be a lot cheaper and better investment of public funding.”
Work has already commenced on the first stage of the 55-kilometre (34-mile) underground pipeline, which stretches from the Calala Water Treatment Plant in Tamworth to the Dungowan Showgrounds.
When this stage is completed, the final section linking the dam to the showgrounds and Tamworth will be laid.
The next step for the new Dungowan Dam and Pipeline project is the Environmental Impact Statement, expected to be ready by the end of the year, after which the final investment decision will be made.