Water crisis in the Wheatbelt

21 Aug, 2002 10:00 PM

WATER shortages have already reached crisis point in some parts of the Wheatbelt and there is little chance of relief for desperate farmers.

Some growers have been carting water for 10 months in Morawa, farmers are trekking long distances for domestic water in the Kalannie region and residents in Lake Grace-Newdegate are concerned that the scheme water system will not cope with the demand as summer approaches.

Lake Grace shire president Meighan Stewart, who farms at Buniche north of the Newdegate research station, said many dams in the region were desperately low.

The lack of stored water is likely to place increased demand on the scheme system.

"The water in the dams is from July-August rains last year. There has not been enough rain for runoff this season," Mr Stewart said.

"Farmers in this area have an allocation of 7200L water per day, which has not been a problem in the past.

"But we have 6000 sheep and we don't know if we will exceed the allocation this year, or what the consequences would be if we did.

"The Lions club sponsored two tanks and stand pipes in the district and the shire is putting in another five or six tanks with funds from St Vincents.

"It takes two hours to fill up a truck from a standpipe. It should be much quicker if farmers can plug their pumps into the tanks.

"Last year, there was preliminary plan to cart in water by road until the late rains made it unnecessary. I remember water being brought in by rail in the late 1940s."

Mr Stewart said he would have to sell his sheep if the crop failed.

"Feed is our biggest problem," he said. "If we can't carry stock on the stubble we will have to unload them.

"The crop is growing quite well but we are not sure if it is going to hold up in the hotter. We have had only small rains and there isn't a lot of soil moisture."

Agriculture Department ?????????? at Lake Grace Amanda Miller said long range weather forecasts predicted a dry finish to the season.

"We plan to send out a survey forms to farmers in the region to find out how much stored water they have, how much they are using now and how much they will need," Ms Miller said.

"We have had 35pc of the average rainfall to date, which puts us about 150mm behind.

"Forecast suggest we will get 35-50pc of the average to finish, which is 50-75mm at the outside.

"More stock has gone out this year - mostly it is base flocks and ewes with lambs at foot that remain in the district.

"but they is concerns that the scheme system would not even supply the domestic use if everybody drew from it."

Dalwallinu shire chief executive officer Bill Atkinson said local government projects might have to be curtailed if there was a water shortage.

"The St Vincent De Paul relief fund provides a $2000 for water cartage. I don't know of any other grants available," Mr Atkinson said.

"We might have to put road projects on hold if we can't get access to water from dams as we usually do.

"There is an application to extend scheme water through to North Kalannie and the Goodlands area. If that goes ahead it will bring some relief to the residents out there.

"It certainly is a demoralising task to have to constantly cart water for domestic use."



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