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Water security a Hunter community priority

A resilient, secure and sustainable water supply is crucial. That’s why Hunter Water, together with the New South Wales Government, the community and other stakeholders is carrying out a major review of the Lower Hunter Water Security Plan (LHWSP) to ensure the region retains access to one now and into the future.

The Lower Hunter Community has shown support across all seven preliminary option portfolios developed for community feedback as part of the review.

Hunter Water's most recent phase of community and stakeholder engagement for the plan ran from November 2020 until February 2021. During this time, more than 1100 participants responded to a detailed online community survey.

This included providing views on water security, environmental goals, and preferences across seven portfolios of supply and demand side options. Schools, business associations and industry groups also responded to targeted activities.

The community also showed support for investment to ensure enough water can be supplied to meet minimum customer demands in case of a long and severe drought. In fact, the reliability of the water supply during a drought was valued most highly, followed by cost, and then environmental and social impacts.

One of the key indicators from the survey is that the high levels of support across all portfolios show that none should be ruled out of consideration at this stage. Support, ranging from 73% to 61% for the seven portfolios, included options such as water conservation, recycled water and interregional water transfers, as well as purified recycled water for drinking, desalination and dams.

Darren Clearly, Hunter Water Managing Director, thanked the community for their feedback during the extensive and in-depth consultation process. He said the feedback showed there was not a strong differentiation in community views across the option portfolios.

“These are really valuable results and I am grateful to the Lower Hunter community, businesses and councils for taking the time to provide input to the LHWSP review,” he said.

“Hunter Water will be incorporating the community’s views as it moves into detailed assessment of the options portfolios.”

Results show that participants were also supportive of additional investments to achieve environmental goals for biodiversity protection and greenhouse gas emission reductions.

“This is a very important body of work for our region, particularly as we know the climate is changing and our population is forecast to grow,” Cleary said.

“What’s very heartening is the community’s strong support for water conservation, in line with all the work Hunter Water has been doing to reduce leaks and save this precious resource.”

Hunter Water is now focusing on finalising how the portfolios stack up against decision-making criteria, including community values, stress testing against future uncertainties, and economic assessment across financial, social, environmental and resilience criteria.

The LHWSP is expected to go on public exhibition mid-year, giving the community another opportunity to provide feedback.