The Shoalhaven River and the oyster farms downstream could be at risk if the new Draft Greater Sydney Water Strategy is adopted, according to Independent NSW MP Justin Field.
- A draft water-sharing strategy seeks to take more water from Shoalhaven River than is currently allowed
- There are concerns this could hinder environmental flows, which are freshwater releases from the dam into the river
- These flows are important to the river’s ecology and those who rely on it, such as oyster farmers
In the strategy released last week, the NSW government has proposed to send more water from the Shoalhaven River to Sydney to supplement its drinking water supplies.
It proposes to transfer water from the Shoalhaven’s Tallowa Dam when Warragamaba Dam levels drop to 85 per cent, rather than the current 75 per cent.
Mr Field says earlier transfers could have a significant environmental impact on the river, especially during the next drought.
“This plan would see that get even worse next time around.”
Environmental flows are freshwater releases from dams that mimic the natural flow being blocked by the dam and are crucial to the ecology of the river and those who use it, such as oyster farmers.
Report calls for environmental flow review
A review of the Greater Metropolitan Water Sharing Plan, which covers drinking water for Sydney, the Illawarra, the Southern Highlands and the South Coast found the plan was “flawed” and “not appropriate to manage the region’s water”.
The NSW Natural Resources Commission (NRC) released its report earlier this year and called on the government to look at the transfer and release rules from the Shoalhaven River and Tallowa Dam to optimise environmental outcomes.
“The NSW government is sitting on a report that has recommended a review of environmental flows into the Shoalhaven River and that should happen before they take more water,” Mr Field said.
Mr Field said he would like both major parties to commit to a review of environmental flows in the next term of government.
No impact on drinking water
Executive manager of Shoalhaven Water Robert Horner said while water transfers could be problematic for the environment they would not have an impact on the Shoalhaven’s water supply.
“Tallowa Dam was built in the 1970s for the purpose of sharing water with Sydney,” Mr Horner said.
He also said there would need to be consultation with Shoalhaven Water before any change in transfer arrangements occurred and that had not happened yet.
The NSW Minister for Water, Melinda Pavey, has been contacted for a response.