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Water as far as you can see

Wednesday, 24th March, 2010

* After nearly a decade looking at a dry lake bed, Sunset Strip shack owners have their water view back. * After nearly a decade looking at a dry lake bed, Sunset Strip shack owners have their water view back.

By Andrew Robertson After looking out over a dry lake bed for years, Sunset Strip resident Dick Thustain "couldn't be happier" with his view today.

Floodwater generated in northwestern NSW over the Christmas/New Year period continues to spill into Lake Menindee for the first time in over a decade. As the water level in the largest of the lakes slowly rises so too does the spirits of the residents who live in the once-popular weekend destination.

Like dozens of other shack owners, Mr Thustain wondered if he would ever again see water in the lake which has been dry since 2002. Since the lakes were drained as a result of the tri-state water sharing agreement, the place has had nothing to offer skiing and boating enthusiasts.

All that's about to change, with the NSW Government confirming last week that floodwater making its way down the system from Queensland will be enough to fill the entire lakes to surcharge capacity. The headwaters of at least 1500 billion litres of water (1500 gigalitres), and possible more than 2000 GL, are expected to reach Menindee in late April or early May."It's fantastic," Mr Thustain told the BDT yesterday.

"Looking out from our house there's water as far as you can see." Already the quiet Strip has started to spring to life. Mr Thustain said that people were travelling up every day to see the water, which was about 200 metres from his front lawn."People are walking out there and looking at it."I honestly believe come Easter there'll be people everywhere."

Birdlife has also returned, said Mr Thustain, who now enjoys looking out his window and seeing ducks and black swans on the lake. State Water officer Barry Philp said that Lake Menindee was slowly filling from its north-northwest side where Sunset Strip and the caravan park are located. Mr Philp, who flew over the lakes last week, said the water that was spreading out across the dry lake bed was still only very shallow.

He said it would be a while before the lake filled and water began running into the adjoining Lake Cawndilla. As of yesterday just over 54,000 megalitres had entered the lake. For Mr Thustain, who retired to Sunset Strip just before his water view vanished, life got a whole lot better. "Everything's just nice," he said. "I couldn't be happier."

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