The NSW state government is considering evacuating the residents of as many as 90 towns that are seriously affected by drought if they completely run out of water.

For months, many towns in rural NSW have been relying on water being trucked in but that is only a short-term solution, and bore water is only available to some towns.

Prime7 News Central West late last month reported that the government would make the drastic move of relocating populations from towns without any water supply.

Asked by Prime TV how many towns were facing the prospect of completely running out of water, the state’s regional town water supply co-ordinator, James McTavish, said: “We have about 90 towns and communities that we have substantial concerns about now”.

“We are very keen to make sure that we use that [evacuation] as an absolute last case only and in every community we have a plan,” said Mr McTavish.

He said the government had not learned from the Millennium drought.

“We are looking to make sure we are never here again,” he told Prime7.

At the time of writing, the state government had not responded to requests from The Fifth Estate for more information about any evacuation plans.

But a state government source told The Fifth Estate the government was looking at all options – new weirs, pipelines and bores, as well as reverse osmosis systems to purify water supplies.

The source denied there were plans to relocate the town but said resourcing to address the problem had moved to the “next level”.

“It’s huge… there’s been a big shuffle,” they said, adding that nine hydrologists had been hired.

Little else is known about the government’s plans but it is believed they vary from town to town.

“Different towns need different systems,” the source said.

“Day Zero is about the flow on-ground. It doesn’t take into account underground aquifers. Some [towns] do have the possibilities for bores. Some towns are easier to truck water into.”

The source said there was some optimism in government circles that solutions would be found, citing how a pipeline to supply Broken Hill with water was completed in 2016  “two weeks before the town ran out of water”.

Broken Hill is now one of the safest in the state for water. However, the pipeline is believed to have cost $500 million and it’s unclear how many pipelines the state could afford to build.

For most towns, a two-tier approach was being used, the source said.

“The state government isn’t the utility provider; we don’t control the water; the local councils do.

“We step in when they need some help; we have the expertise. A lot of local councils do not have that expertise.”

Working out where to drill for bores is complicated and drilling is expensive, they said.

A request for interview with Mr McTavish was not responded to before publication.

People living in Bathurst, Orange, Dubbo and other communities afflicted by water shortages are worried about what any evacuation plans might look like, according to Bathurst councillor John Fry.

Cr Fry told The Fifth Estate people were worried about whether entire families and communities would be moved and if they would ever be able to return to their homes.

People were also worried their homes could be damaged by vandals, he said.

Cr Fry said that as of Thursday water in Bathurst’s dam had fallen to 37 per cent of capacity – the lowest level since the dam was rebuilt in 2000 – and it was evaporating at 1.1 percentage points per week, with “no reasonable hope of decent rainfall.”

Cr Fry, who learnt about the government relocation plans when he saw the Prime7 news report, said he tried, unsuccessfully, to find out more about the plans through a senior contact in the  Department of Water, Property and Housing.

He said farmers in his area were currently buying water at $2.50 per one thousand litres and while people were not talking about Day Zero, irrigators had been put on notice by the council.

“Our irrigators have been told to cut back to 20 per cent pumping rate and when the dam gets to 22 per cent [of capacity], it’s a total ‘cease to pump’,” he said.

“We realise our irrigators provide our food but at the end of the day the city takes priority.”

Cr Fry said he recently put a motion to council to declare a water emergency but it was voted down. Other councillors said there was “no need to panic”, and that climate change was “a beat up”.

Cr Fry, who is also part of a business that works on rehydrating land through regenerative farming, said a lot could be done to retain moisture in the soil and plants. It was also possible to capture water from summer storms but the infrastructure wasn’t in place.

Bathurst can’t access bore water, and although people had been pushing for grey water recycling for some time council hadn’t seriously considered it.

“We’ve been talking about it for 20 years,” he said.

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  1. This is the future, the water is not coming back, not without pipelines and plants, the natural water cycle is drying up, for good.

  2. Not acceptable when the government has allowed its friends to drain rivers and redirect them to personal farms. Gov also sold on to corporations like coca-cola who the government has since had to buy some of that water back from (because a school was sending kids home not because the government cared) and of course they use tax payer money to buy it back but tax payers never see the profits of sale.
    This government just takes from taxpayers & gives to their rich friends and then gets re-elected through lies thanks to their bosses at Newscorp selling constant lies that people take as ‘news’. Some places in Australia only get NewsCorp press so of course they will believe when they know nothing else.

  3. Climate change will inevitably make Australia’s water security much more challenging. What we are seeing now is likely a prelude for what will probably be the ‘new normal’.

    We are locked-in for probably 1.8–2.0°C rise due to GHG emissions already in the atmosphere (1.5°C), plus a one-off temperature increase from a reduction in climate-cooling aerosols from combustion (0.3 – 0.5°C), even if we ceased GHG emissions tomorrow.

    We now have a political choice: Rapidly reduce human-induced GHG emissions (i.e. 50% reduction by 2030, and to zero by 2050) collectively and cooperatively on a global scale and we MAY be able to adapt to a significantly harsher environment; or fail to reduce our emissions in a timely manner and human civilization collapses with all the associated consequences for everyone and society. How difficult could that choice be? Mitigation is easier than adaptation; humanity will need to do both to avoid potential extinction.

    See YouTube video titled “Keynote Debate Can the Climate Emergency Action Plan lead to Collective Action_ (50 Years CoR)”, particularly (from a leading climate scientist) Professor H.J. Schellnhuber’s address presented on 17 Oct 2018, from time interval 0:05:31 through to 0:40:20, and Ian Dunlop’s presentation, from time interval 1:32:57 through to 1:42:21.

  4. People look the water issues in Australia are fixable but we have Governments that have no foresight for the future and practically no brains between their ears. They are greedy people who claim to Govern us all, however are more a criminal in nature than the criminals inside our prisons. They are ripping us off all the time. Serious water infrastructure is needed all around Australia and they don’t want to do it because it means less money for them and their Elite mates. I thought we lived in a country that elects people to lead and Govern us all, not themselves and their mates only? If that’s true then these people need ousting! Dealing with our water issues the way they are is eventually suicide upon town after town until it really hits the city’s around Aus. We can’t allow this to go on anymore and WE must FORCE the damn Governments to act and put good water infrastructure in place that will give the life saving source! They aren’t listening to us all because you aren’t all demanding it so stand up and make your voices loud and make your stand to count!

  5. You react as though having water trucked in to residential areas is so foreign. We lived in country Tasmania for nearly 20 yrs and that all the water we had when it didnt rain. The truck with its big tank on the back would drive on the driveway, run a 4″ hose to our water tanks and fill them up. Back then, pre 2008 it cost us about $45 a load. Its no big deal. A great employment opportunity for a forward thinking truck driver.
    Having to watch every drop means you are far more concerned about turning on the tap.

  6. And where are they to go ? To another town & it run out of water . Bring the Army in with water …. is can happen anywhere , what happens if it is a big suburb in Sydney or anywhere in Australia It hasnt rained ANYWHERE

  7. We need all levels of government to look at the big picture: what water do we have and where should it go.
    AT the moment, huge amounts go to mining, cotton and rice farming(!), and even bottled water sales; i.e. big business (who rarely even pay any tax). That leaves too little for everything else including farmers and ordinary people.

    These deals with big business aren’t fair on the rest of community. It has to stop.

  8. Investigate this.
    Cowra is first in line for water from Wyangala dam. Wyangala Dam is losing about 0.5% a week. It is at 14% now.
    We feed other towns with water via the Lachlan river.
    It all comes through cowra. These towns have water restrictions in place.
    Cowra does not.
    Who will be cut off from water first, Cowra with no restrictions, or little Goolagong who has been on Level 3 restrictions since 1st of July?
    Pretty sure it will be Goolagong.
    Cowra Mayor Bill West will not put restrictions in place as he thinks we wont run out of water. What if he is wrong? He is jeopardising the ongoing water supply to other towns with his refusal of restrictions.
    Boorowa , who get their water from a ground water bore on the Boorowa river, and send water in to Wyangala Dam via the Boorowa river feeding in to the lLachlan river and then in to the dam , Have been on Level 2 restrictions since 29th November. They are saving water for Cowra not to..

  9. It’s just a cycle. It will go green again with rainfall in 2020 probably. Also if it doesn’t it’s as simple as desalination + Pipes.. but we could do with some dams along the western side of the great dividing ranges for these dry times.. And also reduce migration we have hit our limit as far as population is concerned I.e immigration wise..

  10. This tri-level Government system currently in action is not working. We do not need local councils. The State Governments need to start acting on the middle management duties. Step up, take control and stop playing the blame game. “We have the expertise, but only if they need it”? Seriously, this is the State you Govern, this is the State that you and your party were elected to take care of. Start caring! This system has too many Chiefs, not enough cooks and all are as corrupt and intellectually disabled as the other.Whether the issue is climate change, Agenda 21, Mining, International trade or whatever other issue becomes the topic of the day, stop blaming, whinging and talking. Action speaks far greater than any word! DO SOMETHING AND DO IT TODAY.

  11. Yeap so while you are away from your home the governent does nothing to fix the problem and then they tell you the only way to fix it is to sell the towns to the mining big wigs

  12. Animal agriculture has to go. As a matter of fact, whether you agree with my comment, or not, it’s eventually going to happen anyway. It is just too water and resource intensive. The water situation is the new normal. Instead of using water for livestock, we need to be using it for ourselves.

  13. This issue is bigger than all that has been stated above. We do have to rethink everything we have done up til now. Some farms will have to relocate to areas that have higher rainfall. Some towns will have to be relocated. Population caps may have to be instituted on other towns. What is happening is the new norm. Pipelines and dams just steal water from others. Dams are incredibly destructive to the whole water cycle we depend on. Draining rivers totally for irrigation will just destroy the rivers, causing salination, and when it does rain, they will hold less and it will be useless. Recognition of a changing climate needs to occur immediately. Proper planning on a massive scale needs to be implemented by our leaders, but while our leaders deny there is a problem and each one of us believes we are more important than others, nothing will happen and the country will be totally destroyed. We need to start thinking about the country first and not our own interests or we are doomed.

  14. A modified Bradfield like scheme. Sydney has a great new motorway network underway, costing billions by way of tolls etc.
    We must work towards drought proofing our rural towns, particularly bigger centres like Bathurst, Orange etc. Supply and sources, should cater to industry as this in our GDP, a tax base too.

    Reading a 2016 study of Antarctic Ice Drilling-Core, to determine Australia’s drought and wet periods (Owing the Southern Oscillation Index) shows we can get 34 years or so of Wet periods, and I recall some 18-22 years of drought.

    This tale is over thousands of years, but we engineer infrastructure, basically on one in 100 year historically recorded events. Thus, our Building Codes, highway and roadway criteria need to be upgraded for greater surety and rigidity. Ditto rail, water supply and capture. We need a funding model.

  15. All the Australian People should Unite and Protest for New Laws for all Politicians to abide by! Do the crime, do the time, that’s for Politicians as well!!!

  16. There is a desalination plant in SA and its not even turned on. Voting is in next year in November, seriously think about changing the government or maybe we should run the country ourselves and kick them out

  17. There is climate change happening its inevitable, but to I have to say it is history repeating itself. We are becoming a dryer country and there will from now on be so much emphasis put on water. /water is like gold we can’t live without it. To suggest to move towns is just ludicrous, outrageous and dangerous. We’ve known for years this was going to happen but there has been no forward planning and then they just pull the pin on any ideas. Management of water has led to here. Wake up and pay for the water to the towns infrastructure that needs to be looked at. Get the right people in government, seems to me the people in now are not doing there job properly and are only in it for themselves. They don’t know how to live in the real world.

  18. Has the government thought about utilising the Army ? They have resources to make clean water, or fill the water towers with “grey” water and bring in drinking water. Why can’t the government brainstorm with ordinary people who might have terrific ideas about the water situation rather than “relocating” people.

  19. Broken Hill only had 2 weeks water because NSW Govt. had emptied the Menindee Lakes System twice in 3 years. The Lakes had supplied them for nearly a hundred years. The half billion was really for the Northern Basin Cotton growers. If Broken Hill has secure water without Menindee Lakes the Northern Cotton Growers have boasted that they can extract even more water if there is not a requirement to have water at Menindee. It also means that, as we have had currently for more than 12 months, no flowing water in the Darling system between the Border with Queensland and Wentworth on the Victorian Border. 1500 kilometres. And kills of millions of fish. The remaining few will not survive for much longer. Exception being when the Lakes were emptied, and, briefly, around Bourke after a storm a few weeks ago. People are surving on purchased and donated bottled water for many months now. Stock basically all gone. Trucked out and sold, or shot and buried. Unfortunately Mr Morrison has been to busy to visit. He has promised wonderful future projects. But I doubt that there is a slice of bread on a table or a bale of hay in a yard that have come from his efforts so far.

  20. If govt want to Evacuate many towns, all local small business will go bust, unemployment will skyrocket,evacuating so many people with their pets, livestock, possession will be impossible for anyone, especially not a politician to achieve and where will 000s new immigrants go to??. It says local councils control water allocations ? If so how did they sell off in bulk water rights to foreigners??

  21. This current government are in high treason and clearly unfit to run this country any longer and to withhold water for life is a declaration of war on their on boss and a war crime time to sack and tri libs labor and greens now

  22. Dear Politicians, Australians amd Australian companies, before Adani, and any foreign owned enterprise.
    give water to Australians, make the lives of The folks who vote for you priority 1.
    I can only undersyand politic. When assuming there must be a lot that goes unsaid. Things the voters wwouldntlike.6
    You all seem to walk tall, but i think mostly you have real reason to be cocky.

  23. I hope that NSW government has mentioned this proposal to Canberra because a month ago their Department of Spin was suggesting that we bury the immigration overload in rural areas. Not that the proposal could ever have worked without using barbed wire to keep them there. What a ridiculous and desperate attempt to conceal the technical recession that Canberra is at pains to conceal and without the intellectual rigour to resolve.
    It took about 2 weeks from election victory for Scomo to loose interest in reality. Hopefully Labor will find a Leader and a set of relevant, sensible and manageable policies before the next election.

  24. We just use the tar and feathers routine in America. Kills them too, but far more gruesomely – and that’s exactly what we need these days

  25. So were are these people going to be put if the towns are evacuated, like housing, even jobs? The evacuation would be thousands of people, so were will they be put and how will they survived? Will they be given welfare, what cheapo newstart? There is businesses in these towns, what will become of them? What about people paying off their homes, how will they be able to pay them off when they lose their jobs when force to move?

  26. it would be better to install desalination plants along the coast producing fresh water from salt water, to fill strategic (by means of pipelines) placed reservoirs. Irrigation of forests and pasture land, particular at risk of bush fires could take place. All that is cheaper than building 90 new towns to evacuate existing towns. Unless politicians believe that private individuals would bear the costs for newly built houses. At the same time reservoirs near the coasts could hold water from the occasional occurring wet years, where flood water could be stored to refill pipelines and reservoirs farther away plagued by continuous drought.???

  27. Make the mines pay for water resources to towns… they owe us in taxes…. no is the time to cllaim on them.. we can no longer bear to be a tax haven … pay up

  28. Not all climate deniers are deniers, some are simply skeptical and other just don’t believe what the media tells them, especially when they bombard us day after day because, as history has repeatedly shown us, rarely has it turned out to be true.

    1. what has rarely turned out to be true? The icecaps melting? they are doing so. The waters rising? yes. The temperature getting hotter? ditto

    2. So what do you mean, rarely turns out to be true? Melting icecaps? Happening. Rising temperatures? Yes. More unstable destructive weather? Same.
      More pollution, waste we can’t cope with, oceans lower oxygen levels, depleting species, wild insane fires and now massive heat on its way to Australia? What is it they got wrong?

  29. Yeah funny how when towns have to buy water it’s a bit all to much, but farmers living on tank water have been living on buying water in for house hold and livestock for years with no help and no rain

  30. While Australians run out of water, the FOREIGN OWNED MINES have as much water as they want, while they pay not a single cent in tax on the $$$$$BILLIONS $$$$$ in profits they make to send back to their foreign countries.
    The politicians involved need capital punishment so they can be hung for TREASON

  31. Time to change the way we farm. Livestock and mining are the biggest water consumers and this country is running dry because of this dominant culture. All responsible.

  32. This is just the start of more government control to get people into city’s and make it look like it’s a natural disaster ,what a load of crap it is ,all heading for agenda 21 just like they have planned ,we can’t let this happen ever

    1. Agenda 21 (fear of global government) is the big bad fear behind global warming deniers. You’ve nailed it on the head Anne. The reason deniers are so freaked out is NOT because they don’t believe in global warming…everyone can see that’s happening, it’s because they are neoliberal Ayn Rand acolytes and have so much wealth to protect that a global government protecting the planet for all of us (The Fifth Estate) might just make them stop trashing the planet…regardless of climate. Tell me, do you think we should continue biz as usual with chemicals, toxic pollution of our air, soil and water AND oceans or is that also a “load of crap”? What exactly do you people want?

  33. Well said Wendy, why is it so hard for governments to manage anything, I believe the reasons are not that complex. They do not like fearless advice from the public service, so their answer is wreck it and control via consultants. Long term planning which public servants carried out is a thing of the past, the election cycle is three years, so that’s where the focus is. When a crisis such as this occurs the narrative is blame past governments or gee look at much we are spending to fix the problem. In reality most are foreseeable.

  34. What about all us farmers who have struggled carting water for stock for years. I haven’t been able to pump water for more than 2 years. I’ve had no house tank water since July and had to find $260 each month to truck that in just to water 2 remaining stock, water for dih & cat & water for all household purposes. At my age 68 I’m worn down to the fetlocks. Something has to change. We’ve talked about climate change since the early 80s. Why is it so hard to make strategic plans for the future? It is so close to total failure in Aust. When we have to talk about evacuating whole towns, leaving all your worldly possessions, something is seriously wrong with the way this country is governed.