Hunter Water is safeguarding the quality of the region's drinking water by building a fence along either side of a 24km section of the Williams River on land previously owned by Hunter Water. The project is occuring on land previously purchased, and now sold, by Hunter Water for the now ruled out Tillegra Dam.
The project will provide an exclusion zone on either side of the Williams River using fencing and native trees. In total, 150 hectares of land will be protected by the exclusion zone, representing 2.5% of the land (6 000 hectares) previously owned by Hunter Water in the area.
Protecting the riverbank via fencing and re-vegetation will prevent cattle from entering the Williams River as well as prevent erosion and filter runoff. All have combined over many decades to pollute the water before it is pumped to Grahamstown Dam, Hunter Water's major drinking water storage facility. Water quality monitoring has shown the quality of water in the Williams River is progressively deteriorating due to land use impacts in the catchment.
The downstream effects of protecting the river are substantial and include improving the quality of the water in the river as well as many other benefits such as improving resilience to natural events such as the floods experienced in April 2015.
This important project is viewed as a once in a lifetime opportunity made possible by the decision not to build the Tillegra Dam. Water authorities typically don't own river frontage and when they do it's for the purpose of building a dam. With Tillegra Dam being ruled out, Hunter Water has a unique opportunity to provide ongoing protection to the river.