The community will have 28 days to comment on a draft Central Coast Water Security Plan which will determine the region’s water supply through to 2051.
The draft plan was approved for exhibition by Council Administrator, Rik Hart, at the August 24 council meeting.
It includes an intention to upgrade the council’s Woy Woy bore water site by 2035.
Highlights include delaying major new infrastructure development for over a decade, using recycled water and building major desalination infrastructure in the north of the region.
Jamie Loader, Central Coast Council’s Director of Water and Sewer, said the last plan was written in 2007 and a number of things have changed since then.
“We now have an improved understanding of rainfall and stream flow trends, there have been advances in technology and changes in our regulatory environment and there have also been updated population and water demand forecasts,” Loader said.
“All of this means that it is now time to update this plan.
“The vision of the plan is to provide a resilient and sustainable water future that promotes regional health, prosperity and is supported by the community.
“When developing this plan we took an all options on the table approach to ensure the most effective solutions could be identified.
“It also identifies short, medium and long-term actions, that ensure we can secure our water supply and manage any risks associated with future droughts.
“Lastly it has provided us with an opportunity to update our current drought management plan, so we know when we need to trigger what we call our emergency enduring supply pathway this just means that during an intense and prolonged drought we will be able to provide the Central Coast community with suitable and ongoing emergency supply and source of water.”
Loader said the draft plan had been a work in progress since 2018 when council partnered with Hunter Water Corporation to develop tools to identify and assess potential water options that might benefit both parties.
“In 2019 we started engaging with our water management advisory committee as our project vision and objectives were developed.
“We then undertook a range of investigations and engagement with the community as the plan was developed.”
He said development of the plan had included “an extensive technical assessment that has involved engineers, economists, academics and ecologists” and a year “having meaningful conversations with our community through a number of platforms.
“We also collaborated with our regulator DPIE and our regional water partner Hunter Water. We undertook risk and uncertainty assessments, which considered delivery and operation of each of the options as well as risk and uncertainty within the overall supply and demand balance.”
Loader said the council was also consulting the Coast’s Aboriginal communities which would be ongoing.
He said the consultation carried out to-date showed one thing clearly.
“The community value the reliability provided by climate-independent supplies,” he said.
“They want a water supply system that doesn’t just rely on rain to ensure we have enough water for future generations.
“They also want a water supply system that is sensitive to the environment and cost effective.
“The community also showed support for the earlier levels of water restrictions and a desire for the strengthening of water wise rules.
“There are three main pillars to our plan.
“Firstly we will aim to conserve and use water efficiently across the whole of the Central Coast. “Secondly we will make the most of what we have got to maximise the potential of our existing water supplies so we are able to delay constructing new supplies of water until further down the track.
“This involves a number of administrative and regulatory actions as well us upgrades and refurbishment of under-utilised infrastructure.
“The first two pillars will buy us time and defer large expenditure but can’t sustain the Central Coast’s water needs for ever.
“The final pillar is all about addressing the uncertainty of the future.
“While we have run simulations and developed models to create our demand forecasts the truth of the matter is simple.
“We don’t have a crystal ball to tell us exactly what is going to happen.
“We could experience and long and severe drought in the next ten years and no one can really predict this.
“Because of this we will develop new supplies of water such as desalination and purified recycled water that don’t rely on rainfall for an adaptive future.
“While these items won’t be delivered until they are needed we need to plan for them now so we can respond appropriately in the future.
The plan allows the Central Coast to be adaptive to future uncertainties in population and climate.
“We intend to develop our future options through the planning phase now so that we are ready to deliver those in a timely manner whenever they are needed in the future.
“We aim to provide flexibility in their scale and timing so we can respond effectively to future risks and opportunities.
“Higher-than-expected demand or the impacts of climate change won’t change what we need to do, only when we need to do it and that plan has been developed to be efficient to get the most out of what we already have before investing in new supplies.
“We aim to have investigated and commissioned upgrades to our three main bore fields at Ourimbah, Mangrove Creek and Woy Woy by 2035.
“We aim to have upgraded and increased utilization of our existing recycled water schemes across the Central Coast by 2038.
“We are planning for the delivery of a purified recycled water scheme at Wyong South waste water treatment plant by 2039.”
Construction of a desalination plant in Toukley waste water treatment plant is another long-term measure.”
The draft plan will now progress to public exhibition until 28 September via yourvoiceourcoast.com and Rik Hart called for a further report to come back to a council meeting at the conclusion of the exhibition period before the plan is submitted to DPIE for review and approval.