Dam covers water saviours

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Morrie Smith's dam in March, before rainfall. Pic: Supplied
Camera IconMorrie Smith's dam in March, before rainfall. Pic: Supplied

The creators of a new shelter system for farm dams, which aims to retain up to double the volume of water, hope it could be a solution to the water crisis crippling the region.

Water deficiencies have been declared in several shires in and around the Great Southern in the past 12 months and, with many dams empty at the start of summer, farmers are carting water to keep stock alive. In the midst of the crisis, architect Barry Hall and shade-net designer Phil Morrow became business partners and created the Flexinet system to try to bring relief to farmers.

It consists of suspended steel cables and diamond-pattern shade netting that can stretch up to 25 per cent. It acts like a bungee, remaining in tension to create a stress-skin cover.

The creators claim it can cut dam evaporation by up to 70 per cent.

Mr Hall said they developed the system knowing that the Bureau of Meteorology estimated annual evaporation from sunlight and wind on open dams equated to 50 to 70 per cent.

“We are aware of the dire water shortages on farm dams across WA and extensively throughout other States of Australia and are trying to fast-track the system,” he said.

“There is financial modelling that suggests that covering only one modest-size farm dam, say 60m by 40m, will save enough water to carry 2900 sheep through a full year of drought. Every farm dam is of a different size and shape and we will configure our designs to suit those requirements.

“Each individual landholder needs to work their own figures through the cost/benefit formula to evaluate the value to them that a system — the calculations suggests it saves around 1500 litres per square metre of open dam storage — is worth on their property.”

Mr Hall said they had offered to demonstrate the system in the Lake Grace and Newdegate areas but had received little feedback from the State Government.

A spokeswoman for Water Minister Dave Kelly confirmed they had received correspondence from Mr Hall. “We welcome innovative private-sector efforts to help farmers deal with the impacts of climate change,” she said. “We have sought advice from our agencies to respond to these letters.”

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