Shires in Wheatbelt starting to feel pinch

Kate MatthewsCountryman

Carting water for livestock is still a necessity for farmers across the South West and Wheatbelt despite rain during the past week.

As of Monday morning, the Bureau of Meteorology had recorded up to 20mm of rain at Esperance, 32mm at Cowaramup and 9.6mm in Pingrup.

But many Wheatbelt towns recorded less than 5mm and some such as Kellerberrin missed out all together.

It’s been a long hard summer for many and for authorities trying to help lessen the blow to farmers needing stock water.

The Department of Water (DoW) carted 1.7 million of water for farmers from Pingrup to a government dam in Nyabing in February, followed by another million litres last week to relieve pressure on the standpipe network.

DoW has also put out for tender a contract to cart six million litres of water to Nyabing if further carting is required.

Shire of Kent chief executive Peter Bentley said farm dams and the agriculture dams were empty and an upgrade to the Water Corporation’s scheme pipeline was critical but could be as much as 20 years away.

Drinking water is also being affected and pressure at standpipes has been reduced to facilitate scheme water supplies into town sites.

Mr Bentley said it was highly likely more water would have to be carted and water shortages in Nyabing were the primary problem but Pingrup, which is on the Lake Grace line, was also starting to come under pressure.

While Kent is the only declared water deficient shire, the Gnowangerup Shire is looking into eligibility criteria to seek a water deficiency declaration.

A spokeswoman for the Shire said it first needed to survey farmers to determine water requirements.

In the latest dry season response update published by DoW and the Department of Agriculture and Food, Kent will continue to be monitored as will Salmon Gums.

In Manjimup, cattle and sheep producers are being urged to get salinity levels of their water tested free by DoW after cattle died from drinking saline water from South West river sources.

While the western and southern part of the State had the driest winter on record last year and have been grabbing headlines, Wheatbelt producers have been battling a number of tough seasons.

The DoW recently met with 13 dryland shires in Merredin to discuss emergency rural water planning issues.

Shire of Merredin chief executive Greg Powell said last year was the driest in a number of below average rainfall years with some producers recording just 120mm of rain for the year.

“The climate is certainly drying in this area and it’s having an affect on production levels and on the viability of the industry and surrounding towns,” Mr Powell said.

“Having said that, people are surprisingly resilient and optimistic. They have a positive view and are planning the next season.”

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