Hunter Water and local dairy farmers have embarked on a ground breaking project as part of a four-year, $4 million investment in improving the quality of the region’s water supply and boosting local fish stocks.

The Catchment Improvement Program is the largest ever improvement to the health of local drinking water and sees Hunter Water working with dairy farmers in Port Stephens and Dungog (NSW) to stop cow manure runoff entering the local water supply.

Hunter Water’s Catchment Scientist Rhys Blackmore said the water utility is working with dairy farms in the Lower Hunter to develop plans that improve water quality without hindering the farm business.

“A medium sized dairy farm produces the same amount of effluent as a town of 1,000 people. If the runoff from these dairy farms isn’t managed correctly, that effluent enters local rivers and eventually needs to be removed by a Hunter Water treatment plant.

“Improving the runoff from properties in Dungog and Port Stephens means drinking water will require less chemical disinfection before it can be consumed by the community.

“Less pollution entering local waterways means more healthy fish, greater biodiversity and less algae produced,” he said.

The Catchment Improvement Program will be delivered over the next four years in partnership with Port Stephens and Dungog Councils, and Local Land Services.

Hunter Water will work with landowners on property inspections, education and funding to improve runoff to protect local catchment areas.

Member for the Upper Hunter George Souris said Dungog’s Barrington Tops and Williams River were critical to Newcastle and the Hunter’s water supply.

“A healthy Williams River is essential for farmers, tourists and vital to the unique local ecosystem.

“Protecting the Williams not only supports the town of Dungog, but also provides cleaner water for the more than half a million people that are supplied water daily by Hunter Water. Keeping the Williams clean also helps keep local water the cheapest in the country because local water treatment plants require less upgrades,” he said.

Dungog Mayor Harold Johnston said he was pleased Hunter Water was taking a partnership approach and sharing the costs of improving river health.

“Local farmers want to do the right thing. Hunter Water is taking the right approach is sharing their knowledge with local dairy farmers to ensure local farming practices are delivering Australia’s finest milk as well as Australia’s cleanest water.”

Michelle is a freelance journalist and editor who, as well as covering all the latest and breaking industry news, is a gun proofreader and editor who never misses a trick.

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