Water plea from farmers

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
Lake Grace farmer Noel Bairstow. Pictiure: Cally Dupe
Camera IconLake Grace farmer Noel Bairstow. Pictiure: Cally Dupe Credit: Countryman

Farmers are pleading for government intervention to help secure water at properties scorched by WA’s forgotten drought.

Devastatingly low rainfall at properties near Lake Grace and Newdegate has reduced paddocks to barren dust bowls, drained dams and pushed farmers to cart water from, in some cases, more than 50km away.

Residents were left wondering how they would keep stock alive and fight fires after several water standpipes were padlocked shut by the Water Corporation in January.

Standpipes were turned back on after community outrage, with Water Corporation saying it had to preserve the town’s water supply.

Frustrated farmers met with Labor Member for the Agricultural Region Darren West, on behalf of WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan, at a crisis meeting in Lake Grace on Monday, which attracted representatives from the Water Corporation, Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, WA Water Minister Dave Kelly’s office and local shires.

Lake King farmer Bob Iffla said farmers were wondering where they would source water for spraying. “There is a huge amount of water required,” he said.

“We need about 70 litres every time we go over a hectare, and we have to spray three or four times.

“We have to have clean water, we can’t have muddy water because that affects the chemical.”

Lake Grace farmer Noel Bairstow is among those severely hit, with dry conditions rending bare paddocks for his Angus herd.

He took Mr West and other dignitaries to his property and dams across the Lakes district on Monday, ahead of the crisis meeting.

With no access to scheme water, Mr Bairstow is self-reliant and all his dams are empty, except one, which was built in a catchment area with the help of a State Government farm water rebate scheme that ended in May.

He built the 25,000 cubic metre dam for $25,000 with the 50 per cent State Government rebate, and said it served as his “Plan B”.

“Two years of very little run-off, and this year has punished us,” Mr Bairstow said.

“We built this dam with a 50 per cent rebate ... for $1 a metre. But dams cost $2 a metre now, and farmers pay for all of that.”

Mr Bairstow said farmers across the Lakes district were running out of water and had been forced to destock.

He urged the State to consider readopting the rebate scheme and Water Corporation to “act now” and secure more water for the area, before things became “diabolical”.

The Bureau of Meteorology warned of little reprieve for farms in the region amid one of the hottest and driest starts to the year on record.

Properties in the hardest-hot zone — including Lake Grace, Newdegate and Ravensthorpe — had less than half of their average rainfall last year.

Just 17.9mm has fallen in Newdegate this year, with the town and surrounding farms missing out on showers falling to its north and south.

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