Our Say: Governments should act fast to relieve ‘dry’

The “dry” that has afflicted major chunks of Orana and the Far West has left some areas desperate for water and relief from the authorities.

Some towns are on water restrictions and while they may only be an inconvenience at this stage, they are indicative of the extent of the problem hitting farmers.

In late February and early March what are described as “two significant rain events” brought 35mm-plus falls to Mudgee, Lithgow, Bathurst, Cowra and Orange, which had been starting to show that worrying brown, dry look.

The falls were not massive but would be eyed with envy by farmers and townsfolk in shires and towns west and north of Dubbo. The Walgett Shire received 24.6mm, Bourke got 17.8mm, Wilcannia had a measly 2.4mm and Cobar only a few drops to total 0.4mm.

The situation in neighbouring shires such as Nyngan, Brewarrina, Coonamble would be just as tough.

Bourke, Walgett and the Central Darling Shire have met with Water Minister Niall Blair on their plight. They want the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office to release water from its holdings for a flow into the Barwon-Darling River System.

There is a small flow in the system, but it they say it is unlikely to last long and unlikely to get past Brewarrina and won’t do anything for those downstream.

Apparently matters are progressing. But, perhaps it seems at the rate of a trickle to those crying out for water.

A snapshot of Bourke Shire paints the picture. The shire is on level two water restrictions. Water is evaporating from its holdings at the rate of a centimetre a day. Farmers are unloading livestock.

Dubbo has also been relatively dry. The Burrendong Dam has dropped to 39.4 of its capacity.

But, the authorities say it is no cause for immediate concern.

Inflows may have halted and consumption risen because of the heat, but they expect winter and spring rain will replenish the dam.

Even that low level at Burrendong is a veritable “ocean” of water compared to afflicted areas.

The “dry” is nothing new. It has been with those areas for years, wreaking havoc with families, properties, livestock holdings, financial security and mental health.

That is why governments should be racing to give the residents the help they need. Right now.