A draft plan to secure the Lower Hunter's water supply for the next 40 years has been widely endorsed by the community.
Almost 70 per cent of respondents to a guided submission survey held as part of the recent exhibition period for the Lower Hunter Water Security Plan indicated they supported the proposed approach.
Water conservation and leak repair received the highest level of support (97 per cent) among the plan's proposed actions.
Significantly 88 per cent of respondents were supportive of measures relating to the introduction of recycled water for non-drinking purposes.
The Belmont desalination plant received 56 per cent support while the continued use of the Hunter - Central Coast pipeline was supported by 51 per cent of respondents.
Community support for each of the draft plan's principles and priority areas was greater than 79 per cent.
Two-thirds of respondents accepted that increased water security required Hunter Water to make investments that are likely to increase annual residential customer bills by between $75 and $120 on average (between six and nine per cent for the average residential customer).
"To see all proposed Lower Hunter Water Security Plan's actions supported and a huge 97 per cent support from the community for water conservation and leakage reduction actions is testament to how highly our community values water," Hunter Water managing director Darren Cleary said.
"We know external shocks like drought require us to improve the resilience of the water supply system and, at 85 per cent support, the community clearly backs this priority. We will work to meet expectations of a reliable water supply to withstand drought to ensure ongoing regional prosperity and benefit to the unique Lower Hunter environment."
Water Minister Melinda Pavey said the preliminary results indicated strong support for the Lower Hunter Water Plan's principles, priorities and actions.
"The community's strong endorsement of the draft plan, a foundation for the region's economic development, inspires confidence in the future direction of Greater Newcastle and the Hunter for the 40-year life of the plan," she said.
"I'm grateful to the Lower Hunter community for participating in the in-depth engagement process over more than three years as we now have a rigorous, comprehensive plan to underpin the region's growth, liveability and quality of life."