In February 2023 WAMS and DEG staff travelled to Sydney to begin our advocacy for the NSW Government to bring low sodium drinking water to Walgett and greater capability to Walgett Shire Council
for its drinking water management. We made presentations to public health experts at The George Institute for Global Health, and to water industry experts at the Next Water 23 Conference.
Then in April 2023, the NSW Minister for Water Rose Jackson MLC responded to our advocacy and visited Walgett. Protocols required the local independent MP to be present, and his community supporters from the previous NSW Government's LDM who support irrigation and the conditions that have brought Walgett to this dire situation of water and food insecurity. DEG and its advisors in its Yuwaya Ngarrali partnership responded as best we could to keep our messages prioritised. We are still working to support the Minister to confront the decisonmakers in her department and in NSW Health who currently drive Walgett's drinking water situation.
To restore community confidence in drinking water from domestic supply, we believe that the following needs to occur:
- Walgett Shire Council (“WSC”) must be supported to install and operate a water treatment plant (for the township and Namoi Village) that works equally well on river or ground water similar to the unit in Bourke, and that delivers a sodium level that is no greater than 20mg/L. A significant amount of residents have high levels of diagnosed chronic disease, and we believe even higher levels of undiagnosed chronic disease. We believe this is a necessary and reasonable request. This will require the WSC to design, construct and operate a sustainable Reverse Osmosis (“RO”) brine waste disposal solution, again similar to the solution adopted in Bourke.
- WSC must be supported to provide potable, chlorinated low sodium drinking water to the homes of Gingie Village.
- WSC must be funded to operate these water treatment plants long-term as we argue that the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal of NSW (“IPART”) should not allow WSC to increase rates to delivery community water expectations, and Walgett cannot raise the funds needed from its rates base.
- WSC must be adequately resourced to operate the existing fluoridation system and administer fluoride.
- WSC must be supported to report on the full suite of water quality parameters listed in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines to residents quarterly, provide a customer update as required by IPART for metropolitan water agencies and provide a public education campaign to explain the quality of Walgett’s drinking water.