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Council Water issues: 07 February 2022 Letter to council

13 Hilda Avenue
NSW 2350
07 February 2022

General Manager,
Armidale Regional Council
Rusden St, Armidale NSW 2350

Re: Community seeks council staff in understanding the complexity of issues relating to supply of water. Careful balancing of environmental, social and economic aspects of water storage and supply are called for in the face of climate change, with detailed attention to the need for long term protection and conservation of water resources and in particular, relict water reserves in Guyra aquifers.

Attention: James Roncon

Dear Mr Roncon,
Sustainable Living Armidale supports the aspiration of the new council to attract sustainable industries and jobs, particularly in the context of renewable energy initiatives and potential for associated business ventures such as recycling of solar panels. It is encouraging to note the words of Mayor Sam Coupland quoted in the Armidale Express of 04/02/22 that “to grow, we need to do so sustainably” and “we need to use our resources more wisely to protect our natural environment and prime agricultural land”.
In relation to water resources and in the context of opportunities for expansion of intensive horticultural enterprises, well informed and careful consideration by council of the value and importance of relict underground water reserves as well as water reserves across the landscape is crucial for the long term well-being of our communities and the environment as well as our economy.
In order to enable balanced decision making across these key pillars of sustainability, it is important that councillors and council officers are well informed regarding not only opportunities but also potential resource limits to growth, particularly in the light of changes to climate that are already being experienced or are predicted for New England North West Region (see AdaptNSW website, New England North West Region Report – Western Enabling Regional Adaptation – and Department of Planning Industry and Environment Guide to Climate Change Risk Assessment for NSW Local Government).
As was demonstrated by the severe and unprecedented drought conditions and water shortage experienced in our region in 2019, there are no resource limits that are more crucial than water.
The attached document summarises key issues relating to water supply that a range of community members have been able to establish from sources such as newspaper items, council minutes and reports such as Guyra Geology and Groundwater by Dr Ian Reeve (2020, Casual Research Fellow for the Institute for Rural Futures at UNE) and the Review of Supply of Water to Costa Group Guyra by Armidale Regional Council (commissioned by council administrator Viv May on 23/09/2020). It is appreciated that the latter independent review was commissioned in response to community concerns helping to bring greater transparency to water supply issues that had been made opaque to the public.
It has taken considerable time and effort to compile this information into a coherent form and we ask that all councillors and relevant council staff please read this document in full.
Key items include
the finite and relict nature of underground water resources in Guyra’s fractured rock aquifers and their role in contributing to residential and rural bores and springs feeding into the water supply of Mother of Ducks Lagoon, adjacent rural land and the Guyra and Malpas dam water storages
deep community concern regarding the plan to incorporate as part of Guyra’s town water supply and the region’s sustainable yield, water from four council owned Guyra bores that were drilled under emergency provisions in 2019. Evidence indicates that this will deplete the aquifer and fritter away, for short term use, a resource that has accumulated over millions of years, rather than conserving it for future times of emergency water shortage.
deep community concern that despite innovative water efficient design of new greenhouses, the expansion of the Costa group intensive horticulture operations has resulted in increased water consumption by 283% in four years since 2017 and may to continue to do so.
the need for sufficient allocation of water resources to be held for the purpose of effective and timely fire suppression across the landscape in response to predicted and actual increase in frequency, intensity and extent of bushfires due to climate change
Sustainable Living Armidale values the contribution of industries such as Costa Group in providing employment and economic benefit in the context of food production as well as sustainability initiatives such as increased water efficiency and energy efficiency.
Nevertheless, it is crucial that planning relating to support for existing industries, or for future industrial or residential expansion takes into account constraints or limits to existing resources and constraints that are likely to arise as a result of climate change. Growth should not compromise long term sustainability of our environment and availability and affordability of water for existing residents and businesses.
SLA seeks your rigorous and detailed investigation and understanding of the wider implications of provision of water in the Armidale region, along with innovative ideas and initiatives for a sustainable and resilient future with zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Yours Sincerely,

Helen Webb
Sustainable Living Armidale

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