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New dam for NSW as drought continues

The New South Wales (NSW) Government will build its first dam in more than 30 years as part of a billion-dollar state and Federal water infrastructure funding package.

The $480 million dam will be built at Dungowan, near Tamworth, to help provide water security for the regional centre.  

There will also be a $650 million upgrade to Wyangala Dam in NSW’s central west and initial funding for the proposed 100 GL Border Rivers project on the Mole River, near the Queensland border.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the state and Federal governments were working together to fund critical infrastructure projects for NSW communities impacted by the drought.

“Our response to the ongoing drought impacting rural and regional communities is comprehensive and committed,” Morrison said.

“It deals with immediate needs for financial assistance and longer term investments to build drought resilience for the future.”

The funding will be split 50/50 between the state and Federal governments, which Morrison said would free up NSW funds for important town water projects across the state. 

“We want to get these projects underway because this is about water supply and security,” he said.

"These projects don’t happen overnight but we’re working as quickly as possible to get all the necessary work done so we can start digging.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state government had committed nearly $3 billion to drought relief and water security since 2017, including funding 14 pipelines, such as the 270 km pipe between Wentworth and Broken Hill.

She described the construction of the new dam as “historic”, given it is the first to be delivered and operated by the NSW Government since Split Rock Dam was built on the Manilla River in 1987.

“Dams and other water infrastructure are an important part of the mix when it comes to increasing supply and reliability so that NSW’s water supply is more resilient to the terrible drought being experienced across the eastern states,” Berejiklian said.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro, who has been outspoken about his desire to see more dams built in in NSW, said the state-Commonwealth partnership would allow more projects to be built more quickly.

“Our priority is to get these major projects off the ground as quickly as possible, to combat ‘day zero’ and help regional and rural communities in NSW get through this devastating drought,” Barilaro said.

However, not all groups are in favour of building dams. Environmental advocacy group Nature Conservation Council (NCC) urged the NSW Government to undertake a thorough assessment of water infrastructure projects to avoid “ecological catastrophes” like the mass fish kills seen earlier this year.

“Governments stopped building dams 30 years ago for a very good reason,” NCC CEO Chris Gambian said.

“Dams fail to provide water security for local communities, they degrade river systems and cause a host of environmental problems.

“And in the era of climate change and higher evaporation, new dams are unlikely to fill.”