|Water crisis in west as Lachlan River runs dry|
by MARIAN WILKINSON AND BEN CUBBY, Sydney Morning Herald
October 24th, 2009
THOUSANDS of households in western NSW are facing an unprecedented water crisis and the State Government is stepping up plans to help truck water to several towns, while others will be restricted to using water only for critical human needs.
The Lachlan River is expected to cease flowing west of Condobolin within weeks after the decision was taken yesterday to at least halve water flows from the region's biggest dam, Wyangala, on November 1.
A telephone hook-up of state officials, community representatives and farmers in the Lachlan Valley confirmed measures that would be taken to cope with the crisis, which follows the failure of spring rains. It is feared that Wyangala could run dry by mid-summer.
'I don't think people understand that, under the present conditions, by next April the dam will have less than 1 per cent left in it,'' said the chairman of Lachlan Valley Water, Dennis Moxey.
''Towns like Cowra and Forbes may not have any water, either. There are going to be hundreds, even thousands, of households that will have to truck water in to … live in their houses or they will have to walk away. I never imaged it could get this bad.''
The Department of Water and Energy triggered plans yesterday for slashing flows and supplying water to suffering towns south and west of Condobolin.
"The Government will never let a town run out of water,'' said the Water Minister, Phillip Costa. ''Government agencies are working with local water utilities in the area on a range of emergency drought works to strengthen town supplies and continue water delivery, should the situation continue to worsen.''
''I don't think there were any heads in the sand; people were aware of it and hoping against hope that it would have to happen. Now that it's going to happen, it has really hit home.
''The whole Lachlan Valley's been in drought for the seventh year this year, and I'm just absolutely amazed at the resilience of these people. But for some, I don't know whether this will be the last straw.''
Wal Dawson farms beef cattle, merinos and cereal along a Lachlan tributary south of Condobolin, just after the point where the water flows stop.
''The situation for us is unprecedented,'' Mr Dawson said. ''My family's been around here since the 1800s and they survived a lot but I don't know if they could survive today, because this is coming on top of eight years of drought.''
Another farmer, Barry Crouch, said allocating the remaining litres was already becoming a source of tension between those in towns and on farms.