Planning our water future

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We are planning now to ensure our region has a secure and adaptable water system, now and for future generations.

Over the past two years, we have worked with our community and stakeholders to understand their values around water and their views on the different water supply and demand options we're considering as part of the review of the Lower Hunter Water Security Plan (LHWSP). We have also undertaken investigations to help us understand the environmental and social impacts, technical feasibility, and costs of the option types. Further studies will be undertaken as required.

Based on community feedback and the outcomes of these investigations we have developed a number of ‘portfolios’ or groups of options to assess against future uncertainties. Learn more about the different options and outcomes of the investigations via the Document Library.

We want to hear from you!

Share your feedback on these preliminary portfolios, along with your views on the level of service you expect from us.

The survey is designed so you can give us your views about the levels of service you expect from us and the preliminary portfolios to help us refine them for further analysis. It can take around 20 mins to complete.

The portfolios will become a key component of the revised Lower Hunter Water Security Plan, which we’re aiming to release in 2021.

We are planning now to ensure our region has a secure and adaptable water system, now and for future generations.

Over the past two years, we have worked with our community and stakeholders to understand their values around water and their views on the different water supply and demand options we're considering as part of the review of the Lower Hunter Water Security Plan (LHWSP). We have also undertaken investigations to help us understand the environmental and social impacts, technical feasibility, and costs of the option types. Further studies will be undertaken as required.

Based on community feedback and the outcomes of these investigations we have developed a number of ‘portfolios’ or groups of options to assess against future uncertainties. Learn more about the different options and outcomes of the investigations via the Document Library.

We want to hear from you!

Share your feedback on these preliminary portfolios, along with your views on the level of service you expect from us.

The survey is designed so you can give us your views about the levels of service you expect from us and the preliminary portfolios to help us refine them for further analysis. It can take around 20 mins to complete.

The portfolios will become a key component of the revised Lower Hunter Water Security Plan, which we’re aiming to release in 2021.

  • Community input to help develop long-term plan

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    20 Nov 2020
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    Hunter Water is working with the NSW Government, key stakeholders and the community to review the LHWSP to ensure our region has a resilient water system, now and for future generations. To develop the next plan we need to find new ways to reduce the water we all use and consider new sources of water now, so we are ready should we need them in the future. We are working to effectively balance the water supply and demand in our region to ensure we have water security for a future with a growing population and an increasingly uncertain climate.

    Understanding our community’s values and preferences is a key part of our long-term planning. Through our extensive engagement with the community over the past couple of years we’ve learned that water quality is the is our community’s most important consideration when it comes to our water supply as well as reliability of water supply, environmental sustainability and affordability. Community members have also told us that they are quite open to us considering all options to ensure our water future, but prefer options that reduce reliance on drinking water over options that supplement our water supply.

    The feedback we’ve received from the community, as well as the outcomes of the investigations and analysis, have helped us to compare the options and develop a number of preliminary ‘portfolios’ or groups of options, to inform our decision making, and plan for our water future. In line with feedback from our community, we have included water conservation, storm water harvesting and recycled water for non-drinking in all preliminary portfolios.

    We are now ready to ask our community for their views on the level of service you expect from us and these preliminary portfolios to help us refine them for further analysis.

    Community feedback will be considered alongside other ongoing investigations, modelling and analysis. The portfolios will become a key component of the revised LHWSP, which we’re aiming to release in 2021.


  • Collaboration seeks to better understand indigenous water values

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    19 Nov 2020
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    Over the past year, we have been working with the Wollatuka Institute at the University of Newcastle to better understand Indigenous water values in the Lower Hunter region.

    This work will support our planning by ensuring better alignment with the values of traditional owners, as well as by learning from the cultures who have lived here successfully for millennia.

    The work includes interviews with Aboriginal people from across our region to educate our team on dreaming stories about water, particular places of value, natural markers related to water and climate, and views on specific option types like recycled water, desalination and dams.

    This work is the beginning of the conversation on water with Aboriginal people in our region, and the start of an ongoing conversation to ensure the rich knowledge from traditional owners helps to inform our water future.

    From this research so far we have learned:

    • Indigenous water values include economic, social and environmental values as well as cultural, and are diverse among the nine Local Aboriginal Land Councils in our region.
    • Indigenous culture and values are not static, but rather weaves traditional knowledge with current values to create new meanings and values. It is vital that we continue to engage in open conversations.
    • There needs to be a strong focus on education and the sharing of stories and dreamings to help limit the impacts of humans on waterways.
    • Traditional knowledge looks at the true ‘base state’ of the environment prior to industrialisation and agriculture, and should be a key knowledge resource to make future development more sustainable.
    • ‘Water is life’ – areas where freshwater is always available often have dreaming stories associated with them, and if these areas were to dry out, this can signify the loss of connection to country and life.
    • Everything has its place – a focus on one site or part of the landscape doesn’t consider the true cultural significance of that area. Water should be considered as part of a larger system.
  • Hunter Water seeks further community input into water security options

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    20 Nov 2020

    Newcastle Herald article, 13 November 2020 by Matthew Kelly.

    https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/7010924/more-consultation-on-water-security-options/

  • Hunter Water's review of its water plan includes looking at potential dam sites

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    12 Feb 2020

    Article in Dungog Chronicle about the Lower Hunter Water Plan Review.


    By Michelle Mexon

    Hunter Water has identified Upper Chichester and Limeburners Creek east of Clarence Town as potential new dam sites as part of a comprehensive review of the region's long term water plan.

    The Lower Hunter Water Plan was released in 2014 after the former state government dropped plans for the Tillegra Dam in 2011.

    Hunter Water's Chief Investment Officer Darren Cleary said "all options are actively being investigated", with the review of the plan now at the stage where potential sites for supply and demand will be explored in more detail.

    "We're considering potential new sources of water to enhance our existing supplies such as dams, desalination, groundwater and water sharing," he said.

    "We'll continue investigating a potential groundwater source below the Tomago Sandbeds and ways to increase our capacity to share water with other regions, including enlarging existing dams outside of our area of operations.

    "In addition, we're looking at ways to reduce demand such as stormwater harvesting for irrigation of playing fields, potential recycled water schemes for use on a range of public facilities and in industry, as well as other water conservation programs."

    Mr Cleary said Hunter Water had identified a number of potential dam sites for further investigation.

    "Aside from continuing to invest in water conservation and leakage reduction, no decisions have been made about which options will be included in the revised Plan.

    "It's important we do this work now to understand their technical feasibility, as well as the environmental, social and financial aspects."

    Hunter Water has been working with the CSIRO using a spatial mapping tool to shortlist possible dam locations.

    "From a list of thousands of potential sites, we've identified two areas for further investigation including one at Upper Chichester, upstream of our existing Chichester Dam, and another at Limeburners Creek."

    Hunter Water will also explore increasing the size of the proposed desalination plant at Belmont, as well as a potential site for a plant at Walsh Point at Newcastle.

    Mr Cleary said Hunter Water was committed to keeping the community informed about the plan over coming months with forums and information sessions.

    For more information about the Lower Hunter Water Plan visit: hunterwater.com.au and give feedback at https://yourvoice.hunterwater.com.au/water-future


  • All options under consideration in Lower Hunter Water Plan review

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    08 Feb 2020

    Hunter Water has released a map identifying a number of potential sites for supply and demand options that have been shortlisted for further investigation, as part of a comprehensive review of the region’s long term water plan.

    We’re working together with our community and the NSW Government to review the Lower Hunter Water Plan, which will ensure the region has a sustainable supply of water in the decades to come, as well as during times of drought.

    Hunter Water’s Chief Investment Officer Darren Cleary said all options are actively being investigated, with the review now at the stage where potential sites will be explored in more detail.

    “We’ve been through a rigorous process to look at all of the options available to us that could help reduce the amount of water we use and to supplement our existing drinking water supplies.

    “We’ve identified a number of potential sites for further investigation. Aside from continuing to invest in water conservation and leakage reduction, no decisions have been made about which options will be included in the revised Plan. It’s important we do this work now to understand their technical feasibility, as well as the environmental, social and financial aspects.

    “We’re considering potential new sources of water to enhance our existing supplies such as dams, desalination, groundwater and water sharing.

    “We’ve worked with the CSIRO using a spatial mapping tool to shortlist possible dam locations. From a list of thousands of potential sites, we’ve identified two areas for further investigation including one at Upper Chichester, upstream of our existing Chichester Dam, and another at Limeburners Creek, east of Clarence Town.

    “We’ll also be exploring increasing the size of the proposed desalination plant at Belmont, as well as a potential site for a plant at Walsh Point, located in the Port of Newcastle.

    “We’ll continue investigating a potential groundwater source known as a palaeochannel below the Tomago Sandbeds and ways to increase our capacity to share water with other regions, including enlarging existing dams outside of our area of operations.

    “In addition, we’re looking at ways to reduce demand such as stormwater harvesting for irrigation of playing fields, potential recycled water schemes for use on a range of public facilities and in industry, as well as other water conservation programs.

    “The severe drought that we are experiencing reinforces the importance of considering all options for our region’s long-term water security. During the life of this Plan we will engage with our community to understand their views about indirect potable reuse (adding highly-purified recycled water to our raw water supplies prior to the final water treatment process), as a potential option.

    “We’re committed to making sure our community is informed and engaged as we investigate the feasibility of all of these options. Over the coming months we’ll be working with our new Community Liaison Group, hosting forums and information sessions, and attending public events where our community can learn more about the options,” said Mr Cleary.

  • Hunter Water investigations suggest palaeochannel may contain billions of litres of drinking water

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    08 Feb 2020

    Newcastle Herald article about palaeochannel investigations at Tomago

  • Applications open for the Lower Hunter Water Plan Community Liaison Group

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    24 Oct 2019

    We are now seeking applications to join the Lower Hunter Water Plan Community Liaison Group (LHWP CLG).

    This group is being formed to help share information between Hunter Water and community representatives from across the Lower Hunter on the development of the revised LHWP.

    More information about the purpose and function of the group can be found in the LHWP CLG Terms of Reference.

    For more information, or to apply online, please visit Lower Hunter Water Plan Community Liaison Group

  • Water Pressure: Lower Hunter Water Plan review forum participants say new dams should be considered

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    08 Feb 2020

    Newcastle Herald article on results from deliberative forums with community members about option types.


    Article by Matthew Kelly.

    The state government has made it clear the ill-fated Tillegra Dam is dead and buried, but a significant proportion of Lower Hunter residents still think constructing a new dam to secure the region's water supply is at least worth considering.

    Almost 70 per cent of participants at two recent Hunter Water forums on water security options indicated the state government corporation should consider dams or said they were open to the idea of a new dam as a solution to declining drinking water supplies.

    While the 153 Lower Hunter Water Plan review forum participants indicated new dams were worth considering, they displayed a stronger preference for stormwater harvesting, recycled water and water sharing projects as a solution to the region's water security puzzle.


    Level one Lower Hunter water restrictions start next week in response to the region's combined storages dropping to a 25-year low.

    The former Labor government spectacularly abandoned advanced plans to build the $477 million 450 gigalitre dam Tillegra Dam near Dungog shortly before the 2011 state election.

    The Lower Hunter Water Plan, which places an emphasis on conservation and recycling, has since become the key water planning document for the region.

    A Hunter Water spokeswoman said the review of the Lower Hunter Water Plan was designed to reflect the changing community attitudes and values.

    "We welcome all of the feedback received at our second round of deliberative forums in June on various water supply and demand option types. This feedback will inform our decision-making going forward," she said.

    "All options are actively being considered to ensure there is a sustainable supply of water in the long term, with the review also taking into consideration the technical feasibility, potential environmental and social aspects of the options."

    She said Hunter Water was committed to ongoing community engagement.

    Professor of civil and environmental engineering at The University of NSW Stuart Khan, who is an advocate for innovative water recycling projects, said it made sense to allow participants to consider the merits and costs of each option.

    "Dams have been extremely valuable for water supply management over the last century and I think it would be strange to suddenly turn around and not even consider them...," he said.

    "I think it's likely that, after carefully considering opportunities for new dams, Hunter Water might determine that there are some more attractive options in terms of criteria such as costs, time to deliver, water supply reliability and environmental impact."

    However, Dr Khan said he was disappointed that detailed quantitative assessment of views on recycling were only canvassed for non-potable reuse, not as an option for topping-up drinking water supplies.

    "This seems like a huge missed opportunity to better understand community views around drinking recycled water. It is already very well known that the community, as a whole, is highly supportive of reusing recycled water for non-drinking water purposes, so there are no surprises there," he said.

    "It comes across as if the possibility of recycled water for drinking is not being seriously considered as a future supply-side water management option in the Hunter. I think that's disappointing and leaving such options completely off the table short-changes the community. The best outcomes can be determined when all options are on the table."

    Hunter Water is calling on Lower Hunter residents to use four buckets of water less a day as water restrictions take effect.

    "Saving four buckets of water is all it takes to make a difference," Hunter Water's executive drought lead Darren Cleary said.

    "While Level one water restrictions will focus on reducing outdoor water use from next Monday, there are plenty of simple and easy things we can do every day that will save our precious resource.

    Hunter Water customers use approximately 190 litres of water per person each day, which is about 10 to 20 per cent more when compared to other areas like the Central Coast, Melbourne and south east Queensland.

    "One of the easiest ways to save water is by reducing showers to four minutes," Mr Cleary said.




  • Community helps shape our water future

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    06 Sep 2019

    Hunter Water is working with our government partners, key stakeholders and the community now to review the Lower Hunter Water Plan (LHWP) to ensure our region has a sustainable and resilient water system that can adapt and respond to change.


    Understanding our community values, attitudes and preferences is fundamental to our long-term planning. In late 2018, we hosted two deliberative forums with our community to talk about water and what’s important to them in long-term water planning.

    In June 2019, we held a second phase of deliberative forums to talk to the community about their preferences and perceptions of the different water supply and demand option types being considered as part of the LHWP review.

    Reports on the findings from both phases of the deliberative forums are now available on our Your Voice - Planning our water future webpage.

    We’ll use the feedback we received at the forums and broader community engagement activities to make sure community values and preferences are reflected in our water planning decisions.


    For more information about the LHWP review and to tell us what you think of the option types being considered, please visit Your Voice - Planning our water future.

  • Water Pressure: The Lower Hunter is now viewed as a piece of an inter-connected water management puzzle (Newcastle Herald, 27 July 2019))

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    29 Jul 2019
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    Water Pressure: The Lower Hunter is now viewed as a piece of an inter-connected water management puzzle

    Article by Matthew Kelly

    Cracking up: An intrepid party alights from a boat at Chichester Dam in the 1960s.

    Cracking up: An intrepid party alights from a boat at Chichester Dam in the 1960s.

    It's been a decade of seismic shifts in attitudes and approaches to water security in the Hunter and beyond.

    As the impact of drought worsens, the Lower Hunter, Upper Hunter, Central Coast and Mid-North Coast are increasingly viewed as pieces of an inter-connected water management puzzle.

    The decade began with government water authorities arguing that the proposed Tillegra Dam near Dungog was the silver bullet needed to drought-proof the Lower Hunter.

    The $477 million piece of infrastructure, which first appeared on water planning strategies in the 1960s, was designed to hold enough water to secure the region's water supply for decades to come.

    Former Labor premier Morris Iemma spectacularly announced the government was proceeding with the project in mid-2006, a move that many believe was designed to deflect attention away from the arrest of disgraced former Swansea MP Milton Orkopulous on child sex charges earlier that week.

    The proposal to build the 450 billion litre dam would polarise the Hunter community like few other issues over the next five years.

    Hunter Water prosecuted the argument that the dam would future-proof the region's water supply from the impact of climate change and population growth.

    But the opponents, which came from a wide cross-section of the community and academia, waged an effective grassroots campaign that showed the dam was not necessary and would instead result in unprecedented environmental damage to the Patterson and Williams rivers and surrounding ecosystems.

    On the eve of the March 2011 state election the Keneallygovernment announced it was scrapping the dam and would proceed with an alternative strategy for securing the region's water supply based on the principles of water conservation and recycling.

    Launched in 2014, the plan also placed an emphasis on responding to the impact of drought and climate change.

    "Historical rainfall records are no longer a good predictor of what the future might hold," Professor of sustainability at the University of Technology's Institute for Sustainable Futures Cynthia Mitchell said.

    "Our historical rainfall records are no longer a good predictor of what the future might hold,"

    Professor Cynthia Mitchell, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology.

    "The plan was saying what happens in the worst of all imaginable situations? It demonstrates is a degree of readiness when the rest of the country was trying to deal with the millennium drought."

    Within a year of being launched the plan had saved more than five billion litres of water-the equivalent of 2000 Olympic-sized swimming pools- through initiatives including a campaign to replace thousands of household shower heads and by working with the top one per cent of customers to identify ways to reduce their water use.

    Former Hunter Water chief executive Jim Bentley, who was recently appointed as the state's top waterbureaucrat, said the plan, while useful, was not a magic solution to achieving water security.

    "I think it has done some good. It has helped the various agencies better coordinate on water security and resilience, that's a good thing," Dr Bentley said.

    But, if, like me, you believe one of the fundamental keys to this [achieving water security] is the community valuing water in a different way I don't think the document, as written has helped that in any great way.

    "There's nothing wrong with the document but what it says is once you have written a document you can't put it on the shelf and bring it out at strategy days. It's a guide to the conversation that Hunter Water has with the communities it serves."

    The most recent population growth predictions for the Hunter region show water consumption will return to the levels they were at in the early 2000s by 2038.

    Big wet: A sight that many in the Hunter would love to see - the Grahamstown Dam's spillway overflowing in 2015.

    Big wet: A sight that many in the Hunter would love to see - the Grahamstown Dam's spillway overflowing in 2015.

    The issue of a new permanent water supply is not due to be revisited until about 2025. This date could be pushed back further again with improved inter-regional connectivity, increased water efficiency and enhanced technologies.

    One of these initiatives is Hunter Water's leak reduction program, which has reduced leakage across its network by about 20 per cent in recent years.

    "It's a fantastic result but we have got further to go. And we also need to look on the supply side. We will have to invest in some new infrastructure as well," Dr Bentley said.

    "The planning we're doing together with our colleagues and with the community is leading to a more portfolio approach for the next version of the Lower Hunter Water plan."

    Dr Steven Lucas from the University of Newcastle's school of environmental sciences said the Lower Hunter Water Plan represented a major step forward in water management. It's strengths were its emphasis on community consultation and the formation of an independent panel to oversee the plan

    "The key changes have been the creation of the water panel to get the Lower Hunter Water Plan up and running, so the community consultation side was much improved. It allowed things to be much more transparent in the way we are managing our water. Also the way the Hunter Water Corportation has related to the community in their processes, advertising and reporting. I think it has made that much better as well."

    The past decade has also seen a greater emphasis on improving connectivity between the Lower Hunter, Upper Hunter, Central Coast and Mid-Coast regions.

    The Greater Hunter Region Water Strategy, released in November 2018, aims to improve the management of water which is presently managed by through seven water-sharing plans, three major water utilities and numerous licence categories.

    Former water minister Niall Blair noted at the strategy's launch that the in the past 20 years the Greater Hunter Region had quadrupled its output of coal, experienced the deregulation of the power and dairy industries, and suffered a major drought that exposed significant water and energy security risks.

    At the heart of the strategy is a $4.3 million grant to investigate the viability of a two-way pipeline between Lostock Dam and Glennies Creek Dam and a potable water pipeline from Hunter Water's network to Singleton.

    The proposed Upper Hunter pipeline projects would build on the 31-kilometre pipeline that was built between the Hunter and Central Coast in 2006 when water reserves on the Central Coast dropped to 10 per cent.