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Water supply may last longer than expected

Wednesday, 8th April, 2015

The slimy water near Menindee is undrinkable. The slimy water near Menindee is undrinkable.

By The slimy water near Menindee is undrinkable.

Rainfall at the start of the year and the reinstatement of restrictions on irrigators in northern NSW could extend Broken Hill’s water supply by a year, according to the Department of Primary Industries.

The water in the Darling River is now so bad that no-one can shower in it, let alone drink it, according to one Menindee resident.

Yesterday the NSW Deputy Director General of Water, Gavin Hanlon, said that town water supplies on the river were “critically low” in many places and that it was “imperative that upstream flows be used to underpin supplies as a priority”. 

For this reason, irrigators would not be able to take any of the supplementary flows in the regulated NSW Border Rivers and the regulated Gwydir River system, Mr Hanlon said.

However, despite predicting that this could extend Broken Hill’s supply until autumn next year, he said that the search for bore water would continue at Menindee in case conditions remained dry.

Menindee resident Karen Page said people in the town were suffering already.

“I approached (former Water Minister) Kevin Humphries in October to ask about the residents of Menindee, that live out of town and don’t have mains water connected to their homes, being able to have access to fresh water when the quality of the water became unsuitable for them to use for their domestic use,” Mrs Page said.

“He passed my request on to the NSW Office of Water and they, along with Essential Water, have made water available from a stand pipe in Menindee.

“The problem that the residents are facing is that the cost of this water to be delivered to their homes is far beyond their reach.

“They can cart the water themselves but no one has access to a water tanker truck.

“What we are faced with is that there is water available but residents cannot get it to their tanks. These people need this water for their health and wellbeing.”

Mrs Page said it was only going to get worse and that the next big flood could be years away.

“I had four families contact me last week that needed water but could not afford to have it delivered, and other reports of the water smelling so badly that it is impossible to shower in it.

“If a water tanker truck could be made available for these residents to collect their own water there are truck drivers in Menindee willing to volunteer their time to deliver to residents. 

“It is possible that this situation could go on for years so it would be a huge commitment for someone to make.”

But Mrs Page said the temporary restrictions on upstream irrigators would help.

“I support that 100 per cent. For the river to stay healthy for communities there needs to be small to medium flows allowed to travel through the system during summer rains in the top end of the system.

“This is how the river has survived for thousands of years.

“Unfortunately, the small flow that arrived last month did not have much impact on the quality of the water behind the main weir.

“They cannot continue to bleed the river dry and then give it a little bit and expect it to recover.”

Mrs Page said people were also suffering in Wilcannia.

“I had a phone call from an employee at the health service up there asking me if I would be able to get them some more bottled water because the water is worse than it’s been.

“I told them to contact Schweppes to see if they can help again, but I haven’t heard back from them.

“But they can now purchase boxes of water from the pharmacy at a reasonable price.”

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