Water crisis in west as Lachan River runs dry



A telephone hook-up of state officials, community representatives and farmers in the Lachlan Valley confirmed measures that would be taken to cope with the crisis, which follows the failure of spring rains. It is feared that Wyangala could run dry by mid-summer.

”I don’t think people understand that, under the present conditions, by next April the dam will have less than 1 per cent left in it,” said the chairman of Lachlan Valley Water, Dennis Moxey.

”Towns like Cowra and Forbes may not have any water, either. There are going to be hundreds, even thousands, of households that will have to truck water in to … live in their houses or they will have to walk away. I never imaged it could get this bad.”

The Department of Water and Energy triggered plans yesterday for slashing flows and supplying water to suffering towns south and west of Condobolin.

The drought gripping the valley has caused the water level in Wyangala dam drop to 6 per cent. At full capacity the dam holds twice the water in Sydney Harbour and helps sustain the 100,000 people in the region.

“The Government will never let a town run out of water,” said the Water Minister, Phillip Costa. ”Government agencies are working with local water utilities in the area on a range of emergency drought works to strengthen town supplies and continue water delivery, should the situation continue to worsen.”

A senior official in the Department of Water and Energy, Peter Christmas, said slashing flows to keep only part of the river flowing had not been tried since the dam was built in 1935.

”I don’t think there were any heads in the sand; people were aware of it and hoping against hope that it would have to happen. Now that it’s going to happen, it has really hit home.

”The whole Lachlan Valley’s been in drought for the seventh year this year, and I’m just absolutely amazed at the resilience of these people. But for some, I don’t know whether this will be the last straw.”

Wal Dawson farms beef cattle, merinos and cereal along a Lachlan tributary south of Condobolin, just after the point where the water flows stop.

”The situation for us is unprecedented,” Mr Dawson said. ”My family’s been around here since the 1800s and they survived a lot but I don’t know if they could survive today, because this is coming on top of eight years of drought.”

Water is expected to stop flowing down the tributary near his property within weeks.

Another farmer, Barry Crouch, said allocating the remaining litres was already becoming a source of tension between those in towns and on farms.

”We haven’t used our irrigation pump since 2003 because we haven’t had the allocations but we will have to forgo our water because they are sending it to the town. The question is, how do you cut a drop of water in half?