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Help on way for parched river people

Thursday, 6th December, 2018

By Craig Brealey

For the second time in three years, water is to be carted to people living on the Darling River and the Menindee lakes.

Yet again, the river is drying up and what is left of the water in it is too salty and is infested with toxic blue-green algae.

The carting may begin as soon as tomorrow to supply those who normally draw their household supply from the lakes or the river, said the Central Darling Shire Council.

The water will come from the town which has a treatment plant and be delivered by truck carrying an 18,000 litre tank, the council’s general manager, Greg Hill, said yesterday.  

The water will cost $2 for 1000 litres, or $36 a tank, said Mr Hill, and the government will pay the council to deliver it.

“We are using Federal Government drought relief funding to start with and then the NSW Government will come and assist us,” he said.

Karen Page, who has a block on the river, said she and her neighbours welcomed the news that help was on its way because they had not been expecting it.

“It was a huge relief for everyone living along the river,” Mrs Page told the BDT. “I am very, very happy to pay $2 a kilolitre.

“The last time this happened, in 2015, I was told by the NSW Government that it was a once-off so I think the council might have had a word with them in Wilcannia.”

The federal and state water ministers visited Wilcannia on November 12 to announce a joint financial contribution to the building of a new weir.

But Mrs Page said that river people having to be saved again showed had badly the river was being run by government.

Now there was a drought to blame, she said, but in 2015 there was not.

“The future looks dire. People are running around trying to get rainwater tanks to save as much water as they can.

“This could go on for a long, long time.”

Mrs Page said she doubted that local State MP Kevin Humphries’ plan to save the lakes would be accepted by the NSW Government or the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA).

NSW has submitted to the MDBA a Water Savings Project that would drain the lakes more rapidly, leave just 80 gigalitres in Menindee Lake and replace the Lower Darling with a pipeline.

Last week Mr Humphries said none of this was necessary because Lake Cawndilla could satisfy the lake’s system’s downstream obligations under the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement, thereby allowing the other lakes to remain full and in the control of NSW.

“That plan has been on the drawing board for a quite a while and is identical to what Kevin Humphries told us at public meetings in 2015,” Mrs Page said.

“It was also put to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority in 2015 and they said they would investigate it.

“Just because you take Cawndilla away for environmental water doesn’t mean water will be left in the other lakes.

“Since 2010 NSW has been drawing down the lakes. It doesn’t matter what the MDBA is entitled to, NSW will still release all the water that’s there.

“If you look at the (Water Savings Project) everything is about draining all the lakes, Cawndilla included.

“They want to drain the lakes faster, kill the lakes system and get into Cawndilla. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about pleasing us.”

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