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A nice drop for our northern neighbours

Saturday, 3rd January, 2015

By Craig Brealey

If the predictions are right, and in a year’s time Broken Hill is supping on a cocktail of slurry and bore water, some of us will be casting an envious eye to the north.

Not to sub-tropical Queensland or the north coast of NSW, but true north to Tibooburra.

This little township at the gateway to the sand dune country where you will find more shade under its big red boulders than its trees has enough water in its dams to last two years. And it’s top quality, too.

“Beautiful. Real good drinking water,” said Dan Hough, National Parks officer and volunteer treasurer of Tibooburra Water.

“You can’t even taste the chlorine or anything,” said Mr Hough. “It is really good. 

“There are no water restrictions. We are in a good situation.”

The little town of 110 people even got a nice drop of rain this week whereas the Silver City copped an extra-strong dose of sunshine.

“We got 16 to 20 millimetres but we didn’t get any run-off from the creeks at all,” Mr Hough said. 

“But we’ve still got about two years’ supply.” 

It does seem odd that a town that has no water other than what falls from the sky is doing better than a city fed from a pipeline direct from a river.

But then Tibooburra Water would never drain its main dam, which is just what the capricious Murray-Darling Basin Commission did to ours, the Menindee Lakes.

The town is also blessed with a good, clean catchment which saved it just in time last year, according to Mr Hough.

In February, Tibooburra was less than a fortnight away from running out of water. The main dam was dry and the back-up reservoir held a couple of metres of muddy water. 

As an emergency measure, four new rainwater tanks were brought in and placed next to the back-up. These were to be filled with water trucked from a bore 60 kilometres away and the NSW Government was going to drill for bore water within a 15km radius of the town, just as it is now at Menindee Lake.

Then, with only days to spare, 36 millimetres of rain fell on February 26 and 27 - and right on the catchment .

“It was pretty localised rain,” Mr Hough said. “We only have a 10-kilometre catchment area and it was enough to fill (the dams) ten times over.

“It is such a good, clean catchment. All the creeks are in good, hard country so nearly all of the water goes straight into the dams.

“We lose about two metres a year to evaporation, so they’re not full now, but we’ve got close to two years’ supply still.”

Years ago, Broken Hill was known as “the oasis in the desert”. We still have the greenery - but Tibooburra has the water.

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