THE state government has cut the flow of the Peel River with a temporary weir to reserve the remaining water in Chaffey Dam for Tamworth.
A giant plastic bag, filled with thousands of litres of water, has been placed across the waterway just down from the Dungowan Hotel.
It's expected to be in place for about the next week, as crews install a one-metre temporary concrete culvert. Water will be taken from the weir and pumped directly into an existing pipeline owned by Tamworth council.
Water NSW chief executive officer David Harris said the temporary fix would "buy us time" until the permanent $38-million pipeline from Chaffey to Tamworth was completed in March 2020.
"We're doing this today because, quite frankly, we have no other option," Mr Harris said.
"If we had done nothing, this river and the dam would have run dry by about mid-2020. The combination of these works, on our current estimates, will see Tamworth through to about mid-to-late 2021 [with no inflows]."
A handful of landholders along the Peel will be impacted by the weir and have been working with both the state government and the council to mitigate the effects.
Tamworth mayor Col Murray said an "extraordinary drought calls for extraordinary measures".
"These are emergency measures for the benefit of the 50,000 odd people who live in Tamworth, and the many thousands of jobs that are associated with those high-water users," he said.