Reprieve for dairy irrigators

26 Jun, 2002 10:00 PM
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THE extent of winter rainfall would be a deciding factor on whether Harvey irrigators would again be asked to trade some of their Stirling Dam water allocation and ease a water shortage in Perth.

The Water Corporation approached South West Irrigation (SWI) in April to see if its Harvey irrigators would lease 15m kilolitres of water for two years.

An answer was expected by the end of May, by which time irrigators indicated opposition to the plan, not least because dams were empty and there was no guaranteeing they would fill over winter.

The mostly dairy farmers and horticulturists also believed they could create a precedent and not get their water back. The dams were built for irrigation, which should remain their purpose.

SWI general manager Geoff Calder said that following a meeting with the irrigators, the Water Corporation indicated it would wait to see how much water was in the dams after winter before deciding to make the request again.

"How can you ask us to give something we have not got?" Mr Calder said.

He said SWI dams were essentially still "empty bath tubs" and that the extent of this year's run-off wouldn't be known until October.

Mr Calder believed the government had not been serious about saving water in Perth and that it should have enforced a total sprinkler ban during summer and put the price of water up by the full CPI increase of 3.2pc instead of 2.9pc.

Premier Geoff Gallop last week said he was disappointed that some Perth residents were still using their garden reticulation systems outside their two-day-a-week restrictions. Infringement notices and warnings had been issued.

Thirty property owners using their sprinklers on correct days were also reminded to switch off their systems for winter.

Dr Gallop said despite good recent rains, the dam levels had increased by only 1.6m kilolitres and were still less than 18pc of overall capacity.

In an average winter, dam levels increased by 167m kilolitres.

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