Planning our water future

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link


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

The Lower Hunter Water Security Plan is a whole-of-government approach to ensuring the region has a resilient and sustainable water future that contributes to regional health and prosperity and is supported by the community.

Water is essential for communities across the Lower Hunter to flourish. It nurtures our natural environment, keeps our households and businesses running, contributes to green and cool spaces in our cities and towns and keeps our industries operating and our regional economies thriving. Water is deeply entwined with the spiritual, cultural, social and economic wellbeing of Aboriginal communities across the Lower Hunter region.

For the last three years we have talked to our community and customers about their values and preferences for our water future, have looked at the data on our changing climate and the expected growth in the region, and we have analysed a range of demand and supply options to reduce the amount of drinking water we use and to supplement our water supplies. We also learnt from our experiences in the recent drought about what we need to do to make sure we are prepared in the future.

Draft Lower Hunter Water Security Plan

Our draft plan was on public exhibition during August and September 2021 for community feedback. Thank you to everyone who provided a submission. We are reviewing all feedback received and working with the NSW Government to finalise the plan. The final plan will be sent to NSW Cabinet for consideration in early 2022.

Read the draft plan here. There are also supporting documents in the Document Library including summary documents, fact sheets and FAQs for you to review.

Online Community Webinar

We held an online webinar on Tuesday 24 August from 2-3:30 pm to adhere to Covid safe requirements. The webinar gave participants an understanding of the context for the plan and an overview of the key priorities and actions. If you could not attend at the nominated time, a recording of the webinar is available here.

Preliminary feedback from public exhibition

A high level summary of submissions is available here. A full summary of all submissions received will be available later this year.


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

The Lower Hunter Water Security Plan is a whole-of-government approach to ensuring the region has a resilient and sustainable water future that contributes to regional health and prosperity and is supported by the community.

Water is essential for communities across the Lower Hunter to flourish. It nurtures our natural environment, keeps our households and businesses running, contributes to green and cool spaces in our cities and towns and keeps our industries operating and our regional economies thriving. Water is deeply entwined with the spiritual, cultural, social and economic wellbeing of Aboriginal communities across the Lower Hunter region.

For the last three years we have talked to our community and customers about their values and preferences for our water future, have looked at the data on our changing climate and the expected growth in the region, and we have analysed a range of demand and supply options to reduce the amount of drinking water we use and to supplement our water supplies. We also learnt from our experiences in the recent drought about what we need to do to make sure we are prepared in the future.

Draft Lower Hunter Water Security Plan

Our draft plan was on public exhibition during August and September 2021 for community feedback. Thank you to everyone who provided a submission. We are reviewing all feedback received and working with the NSW Government to finalise the plan. The final plan will be sent to NSW Cabinet for consideration in early 2022.

Read the draft plan here. There are also supporting documents in the Document Library including summary documents, fact sheets and FAQs for you to review.

Online Community Webinar

We held an online webinar on Tuesday 24 August from 2-3:30 pm to adhere to Covid safe requirements. The webinar gave participants an understanding of the context for the plan and an overview of the key priorities and actions. If you could not attend at the nominated time, a recording of the webinar is available here.

Preliminary feedback from public exhibition

A high level summary of submissions is available here. A full summary of all submissions received will be available later this year.

  • Water Security for the Lower Hunter's Prosperity Now and the Future

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    The NSW Government and Hunter Water are inviting comment on the draft Lower Hunter Water Security Plan.

    The draft Plan is the culmination of more than three years of comprehensive investigations and assessment, underpinned by in-depth engagement with the community, to ensure the growing Lower Hunter region has the water security it needs for a prosperous future.

    Minister for Water, Property and Housing, Melinda Pavey, said the draft Lower Hunter Water Security Plan is a foundation for the economic development of Greater Newcastle and the Hunter while supporting the liveability of the community, setting out a pathway until 2060.

    “Water is fundamental to the region’s growth, prosperity and quality of life. I’m proud of the comprehensive work involving a whole-of-government approach to ensure we have a sustainable and resilient water supply for the Lower Hunter, now and for future generations.

    “Hunter Water has developed a draft Plan that will support the growth of the region and ensure it can respond to system shocks, including drought and a changing climate,” Mrs Pavey said.

    Hunter Water Managing Director, Darren Cleary, said the recent drought has highlighted the vulnerability of the water supply system.

    “The recent drought rewrote the rules for many communities around New South Wales. New insights gained during the drought have confirmed that our region is more vulnerable to drought than we previously thought. The Hunter’s storages can go from typical operating levels to critical in less than three years. If drought were to continue beyond this, our region could run out of water.

    “Our community has told us they expect a reliable water supply that can withstand drought, reaffirming our view that it is unacceptable for a region the size of the Lower Hunter to face the risk of running out of water. A key objective of our future planning is to make sure we can supply enough water to meet the demand from households, businesses and industrial customers, while underpinning regional prosperity and nurturing the unique Lower Hunter environment.

    The draft Lower Hunter Water Security Plan is now on public exhibition for a six-week period concluding on Sunday 19 September 2021. Detailed information on the Hunter Water engagement website includes the draft Plan, fact sheets about the different actions and other technical information. A COVIDSafe public webinar will be held on Tuesday 24 August and registrations are now open. A recording of the webinar will be available via the Hunter Water engagement site for those unable to attend.

    To request a printed copy call 1300 657 657. To download the draft Plan, view an explainer video and the supporting documents, as well as to make a submission or book in for the webinar, visit the community engagement webpage: www.hunterwater.com.au/waterfuture

  • Community input to help develop long-term plan

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link
    supporting image

    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

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link
    supporting image

    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

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    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

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    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

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    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

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    Newcastle Herald article about palaeochannel investigations at Tomago

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

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    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

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    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

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    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.

Page last updated: 25 October 2021, 08:35