THE State government has spent $1.6 million to date carting water to support the record number of water deficient areas declared in Western Australia since May 2019.
In March the government announced that Salmon Gums in the Shire of Esperance was the tenth area declared water deficient.
The area was added to the list of areas in the Shires of Ravensthorpe, Lake Grace, Kent, Jerramungup, Esperance, and Dumbleyung.
A Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) spokesperson said while dry conditions persist, "water carting is needed to meet the emergency livestock water requirements of farmers across the 10 water deficiency declared areas".
"The department will continue to monitor and assess the capacity of on-farm water supplies and other strategic community water supplies to determine whether water carting to a central location should be reduced or suspended," DWER said.
"The department encourages farmers to enhance their on-farm water infrastructure and effectively maintain dams and catchments to maximise water capture and storage capacity to minimise reliance on off-farm community water supplies.
"Current expenditure for water carting to support emergency livestock water in water deficiency declared areas is about $1.6m."
WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said "farmers will be hoping for a better season this year after a patchy year in 2019 and it's good to hear farmers are preparing".
"To date, the State government has undertaken a $1.6m water carting operation to deliver up to 13 million litres of water per week to water deficient areas for livestock - free of charge to farmers," Ms MacTiernan said.
"In addition, the Water Corporation is carting about 7.5 million litres of drinking water per week to 12 towns across the Great Southern region.
"Soil moisture levels are near average or drier than normal after what has been a warm and dry April.
"The Bureau of Meteorology seasonal rainfall outlook for May to July indicates above-normal rainfall chances over most of the southern part of the State, including southern and eastern agricultural areas.
"We are working across government to monitor and respond to the impact of dry seasonal conditions on broadacre livestock and grains industries across the grainbelt and south coast, with a focus on animal welfare, reducing land degradation risk and providing seasonally relevant information."
Farmers across the South West and Great Southern have been cleaning out dams and enlarging some in order to capture as much rainfall as possible when it does arrive.
BoM reports that the Great Southern area received lass than 5 millimetres in seven days to Monday, while the Southern Coastal region saw less than 10mm.
The South West region had a mixture of results from 1-25mm at Walpole.
WA Water Minister Dave Kelly said last month that a declaration of water deficiency was made "as a last resort after continued dry conditions have depleted on-farm and local community water supplies".
For the Salmon Gums area the State government has been carting about 850 kilolitres of water each week from Norseman to existing tanks at the Salmon Gums Quarry dam, reducing the distance farmers need to travel to source emergency livestock water.
Mr Kelly said water made available to farmers through Water Deficiency Declarations was strictly for emergency livestock purposes and should not be accessed for any other purpose, including crop spraying.
"To conserve this precious resource, farmers accessing this emergency water are encouraged to store the water in closed tanks, rather than on-farm dams, where water losses are high due to evaporation," DWER said.
DWER has also been liaising with local government authorities and farmers in other dryland areas to monitor their on-farm water storage and requirements.
The department is encouraging farmers to continue to return their farm water surveys and local government authorities to consider Community Water Supply Program grant applications in areas of need.
Mr Kelly said the Great Southern agricultural region was experiencing "unprecedented dry conditions following two years of well below average annual rainfall".
Mr Kelly said in the past 15 months the State government had invested more than $1.5m in 34 projects designed to improve community water supplies, including work on dams, catchments and bores.
The State is calling on the Federal government to support an expansion of this important work through the new Future Drought Fund.
"We have never before seen such a high demand for water carting in the State, with the cost of carting water for both public drinking and animal welfare needs estimated at more than $4 million since January 2019," Mr Kelly said.