NSW Water Minister, Nationals MP Melinda Pavey has suspended existing rules for transfers from the Shoalhaven River to Sydney, using powers reserved for severe water shortages, to allow additional water transfers from the Shoalhaven.
Under agreed water sharing plans limited transfers have been allowed once Sydney dam levels fall below 75% and can only take the top 1 metre of water from the Tallowa Dam to ensure supplies for the Shoalhaven households and businesses and the Shoalhaven River.
The suspension comes as Sydney’s Dams fell below 50% in August but additional transfers are only allowed under the Sydney Metropolitan Water Plan 2017 once dams fall below 30% .
The suspension was made despite Sydney being on only the lowest level 1 water restrictions and the Sydney desalination plant having only just reached full capacity.
Independent MLC and Shoalhaven resident Justin Field said, “The Water Minister has to explain why additional transfers have been allowed early and how the needs of the Shoalhaven community and river are going to be ensured.
“Since September 2018 more than 33 billion litres  have been transferred from the Shoalhaven by Water NSW. That’s the equivalent of 13,000 Olympic swimming pools of water.
“I’m calling for a review of the transfer agreements to ensure the Shoalhaven has the water it needs for households, businesses and a healthy Shoalhaven River.
“Downstream water users and in particular the oyster industry rely on regular freshwater flows to ensure a healthy river.
“It’s clear that the NSW Government would rather transfer more water from the Shoalhaven than tighten water restrictions in Sydney. Sydney has a poor track record of water efficiency and recycling and the Shoalhaven is paying for the city’s water management failures.
“The Coalition Government is failing on water. The $2.5 billion the NSW Government has ripped out of Sydney Water as dividends, should be redirected to water efficiency and recycling programs to reduce Sydney’s water demand and that should come before more water is extracted from the Shoalhaven,” Justin Field said.