RAINS might have fallen, and in many cases dam levels have risen, but regional NSW is still feeling the bite of the drought.
The summer's bushfires and then the coronavirus have swept the attention away from those on the land, and many of them are still doing it tough.
Currently 92.7 per cent of the state is still affected by the drought, the worst hit areas are at the western border of the state, and also the far north-east and south-east corners.
Tough water restrictions are still in place for many residents, it's level five Orange and is classed as extreme in Bathurst where residents are only allowed to water their garden with a bucket or watering can; while there's permanent water conservation measures in place across the Riverina.
In Broken Hill level four restrictions apply with Central Darling Shire Council warning restrictions are enforceable and penalties, including possible disconnection, will be imposed upon those who do not comply.
With Chaffey Dam hovering around 14 per cent capacity, Tamworth has just won six months more water after gaining approval to use a new pipeline.
Burrendong Dam's water level has increased from just 1.7 per cent in late January to 21.9 per cent, Keepit Dam has jumped from 0.6 per cent to 14.3, while Lostock Dam has risen from 45.0 to 100.8 per cent.
Graziers running out of money
Under big blue and almost cloudless skies in Sallys Flat, Robyn and Geoff Rayner's paddocks might have a touch of green, but times are still very tough.
The couple's merino sheep property is located midway between Bathurst and Mudgee and after more than two years of hand-feeding their flock they have run out of money.
"The money has run out so we've not only have we got a green drought, but there's only so far you can go moneywise," Mr Rayner said.
"I don't care how well you plan, you're still going to run out of money eventually."
Hand feeding hungry sheep dotted across their 3000 acre property has taken its toll on the couple.
"We've spent two-and-a-half years feeding, but the last 12 months it's been every day," Mr Rayner said.
"Sometimes you're feeding until 11 or 12 o'clock at night.
"Trying to buy feed and working out just how much you can afford has become a very, very tricky game of chess.
"We've sold 900 wethers in the past 12 months and we're concentrating on keeping our breeding stock and young sheep."
While they have had a little bit of rain recently, they say they're in a "green drought".
"Everything looks pretty and green and lovely and it does, it's better than looking at dust, but it's [the grass] only 20-30 millimetres high and the sheep are eating that every day," Mr Rayner said.
"It's not long enough to contain us for a two to three month dry spell."
While the rivers on their property are running again, which has been a "big relief" for the couple, they say they need more rain now or they be "back to feeding them again by August".
Trucking in water to survive
Further north, the tiny town of Guyra has been struggling in the drought for a few years now.
With a population of just 2000 people, the area is well known for farming beef, including Angus and wagyu, as well as fat lambs and super fine wool.
"We were, at one stage, trucking treated water from Armidale to Guyra," farmer and former Armidale Regional Council mayor Simon Murray said.
At one point residents were restricted to just 150 litres of water per person per day.
"That was pretty tough on the community, all the sporting fields struggled," Mr Murray said.
When bushfires tore through the region during summer, emergency services were forced to use the sparse water supplies to fight fires.
In late 2019, a $13 million, 18 kilometre Malpas Dam to Guyra pipeline opened and Mr Murray said it has made a huge difference to the town.
There has since been some rain and Malpas Dam has risen from 36.0 per cent to 53.0 per cent.
"It is green, there's some dams [on properties] that are full and others aren't, it depends on whether you're lucky enough to be under a storm. It really is a green drought," Mr Murray said.
'We've been really lucky'
Around 20 kilometres west of Hay, farmer Danny Byrnes says he's "embarrassed" to say that he's doing OK.
He runs sheep and grows rice on his 7000 acre property, and a localised storm in March brought a downpour of 130mm while neighbours just a few kilometres down the road received next to nothing.
"We've been really lucky ... it just set us up like you wouldn't believe," he said.
"I'm in a really good position and I'm really embarrassed about saying that because I know people are on a knife's edge."
Before that, Mr Byrnes was in the same position as many other farmers - selling stock that he was struggling to feed.
"I sold about 400 sheep for $150 a head and I said 'I'd pay double that to get back in [after the drought]' and that's exactly what I'm doing," he said.
"I've spent $250,000 restocking since March."
When asked why he keeps living on the land and keeps "buying back in" after a drought, Mr Byrnes said the answer was easy.
"You can't sit on your bum and say I won't buy back in," he said.
"I do it for the love of it. Farming for me, well I don't have the pressure on me like others do because it's not my only income," he said.
Do you have something to say? We welcome your letters which may run in print and online.