South Coast, Merimbula

The New South Wales Government has announced two major steps forward for their sustainable water future with the release of both a North and South Coast Regional Water Strategy. 

The two Strategies are part of twelve regional and two metropolitan water strategies to be released by the New South Wales Government.

Executive Director Water Strategy and Policy, Kaia Hodge, said the key priorities of the two Strategies involve improving water security for agriculture, safeguarding town water supplies, improving river flows and delivering better First Nations outcomes, as well as recognising the region’s unique ecosystems. 

Ms Hodge said both strategies actions are underpinned with new climate data, and have put the needs of residents, industry, communities and the environment front and centre.

North Coast Regional Water Strategy

The much-anticipated North Coast Regional Water Strategy sets out a clear vision for the future of sustainable water in this iconic area.

Key actions in the strategy include:

  • Collaborating with Indigenous groups to improve Aboriginal businesses opportunities and cultural outcomes
  • Supporting local councils to provide secure and affordable water supply systems to towns
  • Delivering a river rehabilitation program to improve the health and water quality of the region’s rivers
  • Investigating the increased use of tertiary treated and on-farm recycled water for intensive horticulture

Ms Hodge said the Strategy will also assess the region’s vulnerabilities to challenges like saltwater intrusion and climate change on groundwater storage.

“The way we manage water has never been more important. We’ve been through the worst drought in living memory and now flooding is posing its own risk to drinking supplies because of the risk of contamination,” Ms Hodge said.

“We know extreme weather events aren’t going away so it’s essential we have a solid stakeholder framework that gets the balance right.

“There is no silver bullet when it comes to boosting water security. We intend to take a holistic approach to land and water management to ensure water resource development and use is sustainable and equitable, while better supporting farmers.

“Water is our most precious resource, and the North Coast Strategy is one piece of a larger puzzle that will help us take a holistic approach to water management in the face of an increasingly variable climate.”

South Coast Regional Water Strategy

The South Coast Regional Water Strategy will pave the way for a sustainable water future for everywhere from Jervis Bay to Bega and surrounds.

Ms Hodge called the South Coast Strategy one piece of a larger puzzle that will help the State to take a holistic approach to water management in the face of a fluctuating climate.

Actions in the Strategy include:

  • Working with Bega Valley Shire Council to secure town water supply
  • Improving river flows by assessing the catchment-based impacts of harvestable rights limits
  • Developing ongoing collaboration with local Indigenous Australians in water management, which will be guided by the state-wide Aboriginal Water Strategy
  • Improving knowledge around how vulnerable surface water and groundwater sources are to rising sea levels
  • Improving fish passage by replacing or remediating six high priority fish barriers in the South Coast region
  • Establishing sustainable extraction limits for surface water and groundwater
  • Reducing water take during low flows.

“Many actions look to improve the region’s water security, including ways we can cut red tape for new on-farm storages to fast-track approvals and better support farmers,” Ms Hodge said. 

“We’re also committed to working with landholders to safeguard water supply in the Lower Tuross, which is vulnerable to saltwater intrusion.

“Solutions being explored include increasing on-farm storage, installing bores to access groundwater or installing a sand barrage with a fish passage.”

Feature image: South Coast’s Merimubla. Image: Department of Planning and Environment – Water

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