The Queanbeyan Racing Club will use a surprise $500,000 injection of NSW Government funding to upgrade its dated irrigation system in a major stride towards becoming drought-proof.
Preparatory works have started on what chief executive Brendan Comyn envisions will be a three-stage process which would allow the club to be run entirely off rainwater.
Queanbeyan was one of 21 tracks across the state to benefit from a $67m funding injection to improve racecourse surfaces, grandstands and club amenities.
Comyn's first priority is repairing the club's bottom dam, which is overgrown with trees and suffers from a substantial leak which prevents the track from harnessing all of the available rainwater.
He then hopes to create a system that can pump excess water into the track's middle dam, completing a self-sufficient irrigation set-up capable of sustaining the club through the region's dry summer months. The final stage would be installing another bore.
"We've got two dams, one in the middle that we irrigate out of, and the other one basically is right down the end and there's trees growing in the bank, it's stuffed," Comyn said.
"The trees are going to be pulled out, it's going to be re-lined or dug out bigger. They're both stormwater dams so that water's free, it's just at the moment, when it goes into the bottom dam it leaks through the bank into the paddock next door and you can't use it so that's a dead loss.
"We've got no way of getting the water from the bottom dam to the middle dam that we irrigate out of, so we need a pump to get it.
"Stage two was then going to be to upgrade the circle if you like, the main, which is just old basically, it pops out every now and again which means you can't water for that day. That's going to be replaced, and then they're going to put in pop-up irrigation systems so then you can water at night time.
"I don't know that we're going to need stage three. This half million bucks will nearly finish stage two."
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The club has long battled dry tracks throughout the summer months, particularly during its flagship Boxing Day meeting which attracts thousands of racegoers.
"When it's raining like it is pretty consistently at the moment, that water's wasted because there's nowhere to hold it basically so off she goes," Comyn said.
"When the crunch comes and it's middle of summer and you need the water."
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the funding was a major boost to the Queanbeyan Racing Club.
"These improvements will not only drive down the club's reliance on the local water supply, but will also bring down ongoing costs," Barilaro said.
"The funding will ensure the club is prepared for when the next drought hits."
Scone Race Club fared best from last month's announcement, receiving $20m in funding to upgrade and increase on-course stabling and to build a poly surface which will triple its training capacity.
The Muswellbrook Race Club will spend $4.2m on upgrading its grandstand, while Cessnock, which no longer holds race meetings, will be redeveloped as a training centre.
Racing returns to Queanbeyan in September.