It's been a decade of seismic shifts in attitudes and approaches to water security in the Hunter and beyond.
As the impact of drought worsens, the Lower Hunter, Upper Hunter, Central Coast and Mid-North Coast are increasingly viewed as pieces of an inter-connected water management puzzle.
The decade began with government water authorities arguing that the proposed Tillegra Dam near Dungog was the silver bullet needed to drought-proof the Lower Hunter.
The $477 million piece of infrastructure, which first appeared on water planning strategies in the 1960s, was designed to hold enough water to secure the region's water supply for decades to come.
Former Labor premier Morris Iemma spectacularly announced the government was proceeding with the project in mid-2006, a move that many believe was designed to deflect attention away from the arrest of disgraced former Swansea MP Milton Orkopulous on child sex charges earlier that week.
The proposal to build the 450 billion litre dam would polarise the Hunter community like few other issues over the next five years.
Hunter Water prosecuted the argument that the dam would future-proof the region's water supply from the impact of climate change and population growth.
But the opponents, which came from a wide cross-section of the community and academia, waged an effective grassroots campaign that showed the dam was not necessary and would instead result in unprecedented environmental damage to the Patterson and Williams rivers and surrounding ecosystems.
On the eve of the March 2011 state election the Keneallygovernment announced it was scrapping the dam and would proceed with an alternative strategy for securing the region's water supply based on the principles of water conservation and recycling.
Launched in 2014, the plan also placed an emphasis on responding to the impact of drought and climate change.
"Historical rainfall records are no longer a good predictor of what the future might hold," Professor of sustainability at the University of Technology's Institute for Sustainable Futures Cynthia Mitchell said.
"Our historical rainfall records are no longer a good predictor of what the future might hold,"Professor Cynthia Mitchell, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology.
"The plan was saying what happens in the worst of all imaginable situations? It demonstrates is a degree of readiness when the rest of the country was trying to deal with the millennium drought."
Within a year of being launched the plan had saved more than five billion litres of water-the equivalent of 2000 Olympic-sized swimming pools- through initiatives including a campaign to replace thousands of household shower heads and by working with the top one per cent of customers to identify ways to reduce their water use.
Former Hunter Water chief executive Jim Bentley, who was recently appointed as the state's top waterbureaucrat, said the plan, while useful, was not a magic solution to achieving water security.
"I think it has done some good. It has helped the various agencies better coordinate on water security and resilience, that's a good thing," Dr Bentley said.
But, if, like me, you believe one of the fundamental keys to this [achieving water security] is the community valuing water in a different way I don't think the document, as written has helped that in any great way.
"There's nothing wrong with the document but what it says is once you have written a document you can't put it on the shelf and bring it out at strategy days. It's a guide to the conversation that Hunter Water has with the communities it serves."
The most recent population growth predictions for the Hunter region show water consumption will return to the levels they were at in the early 2000s by 2038.
The issue of a new permanent water supply is not due to be revisited until about 2025. This date could be pushed back further again with improved inter-regional connectivity, increased water efficiency and enhanced technologies.
One of these initiatives is Hunter Water's leak reduction program, which has reduced leakage across its network by about 20 per cent in recent years.
"It's a fantastic result but we have got further to go. And we also need to look on the supply side. We will have to invest in some new infrastructure as well," Dr Bentley said.
"The planning we're doing together with our colleagues and with the community is leading to a more portfolio approach for the next version of the Lower Hunter Water plan."
Dr Steven Lucas from the University of Newcastle's school of environmental sciences said the Lower Hunter Water Plan represented a major step forward in water management. It's strengths were its emphasis on community consultation and the formation of an independent panel to oversee the plan
"The key changes have been the creation of the water panel to get the Lower Hunter Water Plan up and running, so the community consultation side was much improved. It allowed things to be much more transparent in the way we are managing our water. Also the way the Hunter Water Corportation has related to the community in their processes, advertising and reporting. I think it has made that much better as well."
The past decade has also seen a greater emphasis on improving connectivity between the Lower Hunter, Upper Hunter, Central Coast and Mid-Coast regions.
The Greater Hunter Region Water Strategy, released in November 2018, aims to improve the management of water which is presently managed by through seven water-sharing plans, three major water utilities and numerous licence categories.
Former water minister Niall Blair noted at the strategy's launch that the in the past 20 years the Greater Hunter Region had quadrupled its output of coal, experienced the deregulation of the power and dairy industries, and suffered a major drought that exposed significant water and energy security risks.
At the heart of the strategy is a $4.3 million grant to investigate the viability of a two-way pipeline between Lostock Dam and Glennies Creek Dam and a potable water pipeline from Hunter Water's network to Singleton.
The proposed Upper Hunter pipeline projects would build on the 31-kilometre pipeline that was built between the Hunter and Central Coast in 2006 when water reserves on the Central Coast dropped to 10 per cent.
- Water policy makers scramble to ensure the Hunter has a reliable and sustainable water supply
- Push to make Newcastle Racecourse a recycled water hub for the city
- Record amounts of Lower Hunter wastewater is being recycled
- Consumers prepared to pay more for water recycling and conservation projects
- Conservation initiatives have driven down domestic water usage over the past decade
- Water conservation initiatives introduced at the Callaghan campus are paying dividends
- Recycled water is keeping water bills low
- Orica cuts its potable water usage by 90 per cent in less than a decade
- Water regulation not keeping up the demands of industrial users