Seventeen per cent of Sydney's water usage in the past three months has been transferred from the Shoalhaven, which has prompted the Greens to call for a review into the region's water pumping arrangements.
NSW Greens MP and water spokesperson Justin Field visited Nowra on Tuesday, and said the government needed to "do water smarter", highlighting the 26 billion litres transferred from the Shoalhaven to the Sydney catchment in the past three months was equivalent to more than 10,000 olympic swimming pools.
"Shoalhaven residents would be shocked to hear that between November and January 17 per cent of Sydney's water supply came from the Shoalhaven river," he said,
"Huge volumes have been taken out of the Shoalhaven River to supply Sydney and that's at a time we were on water restrictions down here but Sydney wasn't, their desalination plant wasn't turned on."
Water restrictions were implemented in the Shoalhaven last year, after dam levels fell to their lowest in eight years. The restrictions were lifted in December, however during that time, water was being pumped from Tallowa Dam to Sydney.
Under operating rules introduced in 2012, WaterNSW can only pump from the top one metre of the storage to provide for Sydney’s water supply, or 7.5 gigalitres of Tallowa Dam’s total capacity of 90GL.
Mr Field said he didn't have an issue with water being taken from the Shoalhaven, rather questioned why the Shoalhaven starts pumping water to Sydney when its dams fall to 75 per cent, but the desalination plant is only turned on at 60 per cent, and restrictions only start at 50 per cent.
"We know we have a shared responsibility, the dam was built to supplement Sydney's water needs, but why don't they go on water restrictions first, why don't they use their water more efficiently first, why don't they turn their desalination plant on first, before we start taking water from the Shoalhaven," he said.
"Lets turn this on its head, lets see how Sydney can use their water more efficiently. We should be putting the pressure on them to do that."
NSW Greens candidate for the South Coast Kim Stephenson backed Mr Field's call for a review, and said the health of the Shoalhaven River should be put before the needs of Sydney's water demand.
“Without a review, as water demand in Sydney and the Shoalhaven continues to grow, there is only going to be more pressure to pump from our river," she said.
“The pumping has a significant impact on the water available for the Shoalhaven community. It also reduces flows available for the lower Shoalhaven, and that has environmental consequences and impacts on water available for aquaculture and stock and domestic needs.”
Ahead of the federal election, Greens candidate for Gilmore Carmel McCallum took aim at the Nationals, stating they are directly linked to the mass fish kills in the Murray Darling Basin.
"If you value water as a precious item for people, the environment, then we need to say the Nationals have not been responsible with the management of water," she said.