Water a thorny issue for Rose

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

As the dry weather continues in the South West, fruit and vegie growers fear winter may come too late.

Despite Australia having one of its wettest years last year, the South West only received 395mm and dams and bores are severely low, dried up or saline.

Waroona dam is at 6 per cent capacity, Balingup dam is at 10 per cent and Harvey and Logue Brook dams are about 20 per cent full.

As the quality and quantity of water deteriorates, some growers are for the first time considering alternative crop options while holding out for the winter break everyone is praying for.

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Myalup farmer Graham Rose said anyone with centrifugal pumps was starting to draw down to the lowest levels ever.

“This is the first time we have ever had to consider not having water,” he said.

“We are reaching new territory — the South West has never been this dry and the water tables have never been this low.”

The fifth-generation farmer said summer had definitely caught up with them.

“We keep backing off on what we are planting and just praying for that big black cloud to come,” he said.

“Potatoes are our highest yielding crop so I have cut back on the lucerne and dropped a lot of carrots to make sure spuds are in full production.”

Mr Rose normally produces 35 hectares of potatoes, 60ha of lucerne for hay and 15ha of carrots.

“We are on a maintenance watering instead of a production watering, so yields are significantly affected,” he said.

Mr Rose said they had suffered dramatic yield decreases which affected hay profits.

“In the beginning of February, lucerne was in full production and now it has collapsed; we have taken a 40 per cent hit in the past month,” he said.

“We just want the wet to set in; every drop of rain will count.”

VegetablesWA chief executive Jim Turley said water was running short and the salt was rising in many parts of the State. Myalup growers who relied on their own bores were really feeling the pinch.

“A significant amount of produce comes out of Myalup including carrots for export, potatoes and a lot of general vegetables,” he said.

“We need it to rain to flush out the salt and recharge the aquifer.”

Donnybrook orchardist and WAFarmers water spokesman Steve Dilly said all growers using surface water in the South West were struggling.

“Quite a few stock dams are drying up and in some cases for the first time ever,” he said.

“Most of our water use is all from dams and supplies are critically low.

“Everyone is pretty water efficient already, but we had an incredibly dry spring, on top of a dry winter and with the wind and heat over summer, we have lost so much surface water.”

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