Lock the Gate has welcomed the prioritisation of water security in the Upper Hunter by Infrastructure NSW in their Infrastructure Strategy Update today, saying it confirms findings the of the Alliance’s own report, “Unfair Shares,” released earlier this year that agricultural industries in the Hunter Region are being made vulnerable to drought by the increasing dominance of coal mines in the ownership of high security water.
Infrastructure NSW has recommended modelling be undertaken to understand how decreasing rainfall and increased demand from coal mining will affect other water users in the region.
Lock the Gate NSW Coordinator Georgina Woods said, "Infrastructure NSW has recommended money be spent on increasing the efficiency of the water supply from Lostock and Glennies Creek dams, and we’re sure that will be welcome news to Hunter irrigators.
"But this problem will not be solved simply by augmenting supply: we need to identify sustainable limits to water demand in the Hunter, and prevent new demand from coal mines where that will compromise our rural industries.
Lock the Gate’s report, like Infrastructure NSW, found that mining companies own over half the “high security” water entitlements in the Hunter catchment, which are less likely to be reduced in drought times.
Mining company ownership of water is concentrated in the zones of the Hunter River where the mines dominate the landscape, with coal companies owning as much as 95% of high security water access licences in Glennies Creek below the Dam.
Ms Woods continued, “There needs to be some restrictions on mining in the Hunter, particularly restrictions for where mining is permitted to occur. Currently, mining is proposed or already occurring quite close to alluvial aquifers, and the River and its tributaries.
"One of the richest and most productive coastal catchments in the State is being put at risk for short-term and highly damaging coal mines.
"The open cut coal mines have made this Valley a leaking bucket: tipping more water in from new pipelines will help alleviate the immediate threat, but we’ve got to fill in the holes, and stop digging new ones, if we want the bucket to stop leaking.”
Lock the Gate’s report Unfair Shares can be found here: http://www.lockthegate.org.au/unfairshares
Infrastructure NSW’s 30 recommendations, including those for Hunter water security, are available here