Dam or not, our water security is a flagship issue
There's more than one reason the debate over the Dunoon dam and future water resources runs deep.
It's why the dam gets ping ponged between councils across the Northern Rivers and back to Rous County Council for another look.
Everyone knows there is going to be winners and losers if a dam is chosen over aquifers and vice versa.
Maybe neither of them is the right option.
It's also looking like a turf war between Lismore and Ballina over which town is top dog in the region.
Dunoon is in Lismore's patch and aquifers on the Alstonville plateau largely bring the heat on Ballina Shire Council.
There are no easy decisions here, which is why the choice over a dam or further plumbing of aquifers is not easy.
But this is a flagship issue for the community and decision makers of the Northern Rivers to come to a regional resolution, not act in selfish silos as we have done in the past.
Rous County Council's Future Water Strategy determined that by 2024, demand for water is expected to match what current sources could reliably supply.
By 2060, demand is expected to exceed reliable supply by 6,500 megalitres per day, or approximately half of the current secure supply.
The clock is ticking.
If it's not going to be a new dam plumbing existing acquafiers, it requires new thinking, new reports and that all takes time even if we start now.
At Rous County Council's meeting on December 16, councillors resolved not to continue with the proposed Dunoon dam and instead focus on a combination of groundwater and recycled water for the region's long term water security.
Part of the solution in the short to medium term was upgrading the Marom Creek Water Treatment Plant to treat additional groundwater from the existing Alstonville bore field.
But further tapping of aquifers below the Alstonville Plateau was vehemently opposed when additional water extraction licences were sought by bottled water manufacturers a few years back.
Ballina Shire Council led the charge against that and in 2020 amended its Local Environment Plan to make it that much harder for commercial water extraction to take place.
At its meeting this Thursday, Ballina Shire Council voted to support further investigation into a proposed dam at Dunoon.
The recommendation from Ballina will be sent to Rous County Council.
A rescission motion, putting the dam back on the agenda, will be debated by Rous next month.
Hard decisions need to be made.
We just can't keep kicking the water can further down the road with each passing month.
If water re-use or desalination plants are part of the solution, let's get on with that thinking because as a region we can't afford to waste much more time.
We are just three years away from demand potentially outstripping supply.