Water relief for Lake Grace

Shannon Smith and Cally DupeCountryman
Lake Grace farmer Geoff Richardson at one of his dried out, cleaned out dams at Mallee Hill.
Camera IconLake Grace farmer Geoff Richardson at one of his dried out, cleaned out dams at Mallee Hill. Credit: Cally Dupe

The Mallee Hill area in the Shire of Lake Grace has been declared water deficient — temporary relief for farmers who say people do not realise how dire the situation has become.

The South Lake Grace location is the second area to be declared water deficient after Mt Short in the Shire of Ravensthorpe earlier this month.

The declaration comes after the Shire submitted an application to the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, which was approved in Wednesday of last week.

A cleaned out dam at Geoff Richardson’s Mallee Hill property.
Camera IconA cleaned out dam at Geoff Richardson’s Mallee Hill property. Credit: Countryman

As part of the declaration, theDepartment of Water and Environmental Regulation will cart an estimated 350kl of water each week to a central storage location.

In coming weeks, two new 220kl tanks will be installed on road reserves in the Mallee Hill area.

One will be installed alongside the existing Water Corporation scheme standpipe on Mallee Hill Road and the other will be installed on Tommy’s Dam Road in front of Tommy’s Dam, a local strategic emergency supply which is being refurbished.

Until then, the water is being carted to two privately owned tanks close to the affected farmers in the Mallee Hill area.

Lake Grace farmer Noel Bairstow.
Camera IconLake Grace farmer Noel Bairstow. Credit: Cally Dupe

Mallee Hill farmer Noel Bairstow owns the two tanks that will be filled for use by the seven farmers in the area.

“What happened is, the two dams we were sourcing water from went dry — that’s Tommy’s Dam and 14 Mile dam,” he said.

“That meant our carting was starting to get over 40km-50km each way.

“It was taking a lot of time, a lot of hours in the day.

“I have donated my two tanks.”

Mr Bairstow hoped filling his two 200,000-tonne capacity tanks would be enough to keep farmers going, with some doing multiple loads a day.

“It will make a big difference for everyone here,” he said.

“After all of our own dams went dry we went down to the Mallee Hill tank — and now it is dry.”

The 200,000 litre tanks at Lake Grace farmer Noel Bairstow's property.
Camera IconThe 200,000 litre tanks at Lake Grace farmer Noel Bairstow's property. Credit: Cally Dupe

The carting aims to reduce the travel distance for farmers to less than 20km.

Water will be sourced from the Water Corporation’s Great Southern Towns Water Supply Scheme and the old Kukerin town water supply dam.

Also in the declared area, Mallee Hill farmer Geoff Richardson was carting water from a water tank on the corner of Burngup South Road and Newdegate Lake Grace Road.

“The trouble is we would get up there and the tank would be empty,” he said.

“The tank is on scheme so it would be 15 hours for the tank to fill up.

“You had to turn around and go home which was a shame when you’ve driven all these kilometres to get water and there’s none there.

“It is good that the government department know about it now — I don’t think anyone realised the direness of the situation.”

Coupled with the lack of feed for livestock, he said it had been a struggle to keep livestock alive without water access.

“People have all reduced their stock numbers and it was getting a bit of a worry for a while,” he said.

“Hopefully as it gets cooler the sheep drink a bit less.

“If we don’t get a good winter this year, next year is going to be a big pickle and we are going to have to completely cut back because there is just no water in the area.”

Lake Grace farmer Geoff Richardson with a cleaned out dam at his Mallee Hill property.
Camera IconLake Grace farmer Geoff Richardson with a cleaned out dam at his Mallee Hill property. Credit: Cally Dupe

Water Minister Dave Kelly said that climate change had impacted rainfall across WA’s South West.

“In particular, last winter there was very low rainfall and no follow-up summer rainfall in the mid-northern region of the Shire of Lake Grace,” he said.

“As a result, on-farm water supplies and strategic community water supplies in the Mallee Hill area are now depleted and farmers would have had to travel more than 40km from the farm gate to access livestock water.

“A declaration requires the government to provide water free of charge for livestock needs to a central storage point, within a 40km radius of the farms concerned.

“This significantly reduces the travel distances for farmers to access water for animal welfare.

“We can turn around water deficiency applications in less than 48 hours, as was the case with the Shire of Lake Grace application for the Mallee Hill area.”

The carting of water will continue until the area reaches a point where the declaration is revoked.

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