National

NSW drought leads to barney over concrete

By AAP Newswire

Conditions are so dry in drought-plagued northern NSW that a New England Highway upgrade project has been forced to find a new source of water for its concrete due to community outrage.

The upgrade at Bolivia Hill - halfway between Glen Innes and Tenterfield - was set to use water from Deepwater Weir in the neighbouring Glen Innes Severn Council area.

While recycled water can be used for dust mitigation, drinking-quality water is required for concrete to ensure its strength and durability.

But Transport for NSW on Wednesday confirmed they would source the concrete-making water from elsewhere after locals protested the use of Deepwater Weir water for non-critical purposes.

An online petition on the issue by Deepwater local Andrew Osborne - which is directed at federal New England MP Barnaby Joyce - has garnered 283 signatures to date.

"We are the middle of a devastating drought with no rain predicted. We need to protect this environment and social irresponsibility NOW (sic) !!!" Mr Osborne wrote on the change.org petition.

Glen Innes Severn mayor Carol Sparks told AAP the council had asked workers on the project at Bolivia Hill - which is in the Tenterfield Shire Council area - to source water from Inverell's Copeton Dam instead saving about 100 kilolitres per week at Deepwater Weir.

Copeton Dam is 8.7 per cent full.

The team doing the highway upgrade entered into an agreement with Glen Innes Severn Council in March to supply recycled and drinking water subject to availability.

But Ms Sparks says the area is suffering through the worst drought in her lifetime and Glen Innes' main water source, the Eerindii Ponds, is only half-full.

"Inverell has copious amounts of water and we are struggling," the mayor said.

"We've got about 10 months left in our Eerindii Ponds and people are anxious out at Deepwater - they didn't like the (water sharing) idea.

"People still have animals to feed. They are using that water and getting a bit anxious the water was being taken out of the electorate."

Ms Sparks said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian visited Glen Innes on Wednesday and was shocked by the dry conditions.

Level-three water restrictions are currently in place in Glen Innes barring locals from using sprinklers or hoses for domestic garden watering.

Deepwater remains on level-one restrictions as the weir is close to full.

Transport for NSW said in a statement that Bolivia Hill project workers were constantly seeking to minimise drinking-water usage.

They were also looking to lower the project's concrete production.

"Effective water management has always been vital for our project teams in regional NSW, particularly with the current drought conditions affecting many areas including the Northern Tablelands," a Transport for NSW spokesman said.