Without rain, Guyra will run out of water in August - but Armidale Regional Council and the state government are determined not to let the town go dry.
"The two reservoirs that the Guyra community relies on have fewer than a hundred days' supply of water," mayor Simon Murray said on Monday morning.
He, fellow councillors, and Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall inspected the pipeline from Malpas Dam to Guyra.
The pipeline is on schedule to be finished in early August - and it will be sorely needed.
Guyra Dam's water level is below 30 per cent - and predictions are that it won't rain until spring.
The town might have run out of water before the pipeline is complete.
- Australian Indigenous mentoring program welcomes students to UNE and Oorala Aboriginal Centre
- Queen's Counsel talks to students at Armidale courthouse
- Armidale to saddle up for winter racing next month
- Federal election holds a little surprise for everyone
- Climate change and how long this drought will last
"In commissioning the pipeline," Cr Murray explained, "you've got to make sure everything's working; that there are no failures in the system. If it takes a long time to get it operating, Guyra might run out."
Guyra - like Armidale - went onto Level 4 water restrictions on Monday. Locals in both towns use about 220 litres per person per day - well above the state average.
"We're trying to get people to conserve water," Cr Murray said. "The enforcement will commence as of today."
Garden sprinklers, fixed and hand-held hoses, drip irrigation, washing down hard surfaces, and filling or topping up private swimming pools, are all banned. So are buckets / cans (except recycled water). Car windscreens, windows, number plates, and mirrors only can be washed, with buckets. And water cartage is allowed only for water cartage (no stock).
The state government would subsidise trucking water from the Armidale treatment plant up to the Guyra Dam to make sure the town and surrounding community do not run out of water.
"That's a situation we cannot see happen - and won't see happen," Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said. "Without water, we have nothing. We can't sustain our communities or our businesses; and we certainly can't look to the future to grow."
While council staff had yet to decide figures, Cr Murray expected 600,000 litres a day would be transported.
"We need to move on it now," Cr Murray said. "If we start carting water now, it allows storage in Guyra to remain, so that should the pipe commissioning have problems, we've got a back-up."
The state government has $1.5 billion available for new water security projects, including pipelines and expanding water storages. If Malpas Dam were enlarged, Mr Marshall believes it could sustain future population growth in Armidale, Guyra, and other communities like Uralla.
Working with council, Mr Marshall intends to talk to the NSW Office of Water and Public Works Advisory to build a preliminary business case for a dam wall (which Guyra shire council intended when they built the dam in the 1960s), and investigate whether the Malpas Dam catchment can support a water storage facility double the size.
Council have also applied to widen the pipe from Puddledock Dam. Although council are exploring this option, it makes more sense to concentrate on the larger Malpas Dam; the Puddledock emergency water supply can only get up to 1 megalitre a day.