NSW Labor pledge to support alternatives to dam raising welcomed

Conservation groups welcome NSW Labor’s announcement that it would examine more effective flood mitigation measures to raising Warragamba Dam wall if elected in March 2019.

Colong Foundation campaigner and western Sydney resident Harry Burkitt said: “It is great news that Labor plans to protect downstream communities without needlessly harming our internationally recognised wilderness, now we need the party to definitively rule out raising the dam.

“The ALP’s latest commitment continues Labor’s long tradition of conservation in this area. It was the Carr Government that knocked back this same reckless proposal in 1995.

“Not only is the dam-raising proposal bad for the pristine wild rivers upstream, but flood policy experts have made it clear that it doesn't stack up for communities on the flood plain.

“Nearly half of all modern floods have come from other catchments, and not over the Warragamba Dam wall, meaning downstream flood mitigation and evacuation routes are a key part of responding to future floods.

“The NSW Government has plans to let developers inject an extra 130,000 people onto Sydney's agricultural flood plains in the coming years if Warragamba Dam is raised.

“It is clear the raising of the Warragamba Dam is nothing but a developer-driven agenda that will put hundreds of thousands more people at risk from floods in western Sydney.

“Peer-reviewed research by the University of Technology Sydney has identified lowering Warragamba Dam full storage level as a favorable option. Lowering the full storage level would likely be a cheaper and far more environmentally sustainable option than the great cost involved in raising the dam wall.

“It would seem WaterNSW are happy to drown a pristine World Heritage Area of tremendous Indigenous cultural value if it means they can continue to make millions from selling water out of the dam. Hence, they refuse to look at alternatives that would alter the storage level of the dam by diversifying Sydney’s water sources.”

NSW Nature Conservation Council Campaigns Director Daisy Barham said: “All parties, state and federal, should rule out this reckless dam project and embrace the better, cheaper, and more sustainable alternatives available to ensure the safety of downstream communities.
“The areas upstream of the dam have international conservation significance and have been listed as a world heritage area. It is shocking to think that in the 21st Century the NSW Government would consider drowning them.”

Australian National University Associate Professor Jamie Pittock said dams were not the only way to manage floods.

"Alternatives to raising the dam should be fully considered,” Mr Pittock said. "Best practice in China, Europe and the United States involves restoring floodplains to safely catch and release peak floods.

“Supplying more of Sydney’s water from other sources is also an option that would enable part of the airspace in the existing dam to be used for flood control.”