TWO aerators will be installed in Keepit Dam in “a matter of days” in an effort to prevent mass fish deaths, NSW Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Water Niall Blair announced this morning.
Mr Blair said 16 of the devices had been ordered and would be installed across the state in order of priority.
He conceded each device would oxygenate a patch only the size of a basketball court: “These aren't the silver bullet, but these are something that we can install in some of our waterways to try and keep the level of oxygen up for those fish.”
At the announcement on the dam foreshore this morning, Mr Blair would not say how much the aerators cost and couldn’t give an exact date of installation.
“We do expect more fish kill events here in New England which unfortunately is a harsh reality of drought conditions but we’re committed to helping to prevent further devastation to local ecosystems across NSW,” Mr Blair said.
The aerators will be solar-powered, will probably operate at night and “we’ll run them as long as we need to run them until conditions change”, he said.
The measure comes after the deaths of up to a million fish in the Darling River at Menindee in recent days, a mass kill below the Keepit Dam wall in the week before Christmas and a reported 1000 deaths in the dam itself.
There had also been reports of a fish kill at Lake Hume this morning, even though that dam is 34.8 per cent full.
Lake Keepit Family Fishing Club president Anne Michie said it was “really heartening to see that there is going to be aerators coming to the dam; that’s really good to see”.
“We’ve said all along we can’t fix what’s happened with our water, but to try and save what fish we’ve got left – so we don’t wind up in a similar situation to Menindee – is about all we can do at the moment.”
It came as the dam sat about 0.5pc of its capacity after hitting an all-time low of 0.3pc on December 16.
Club members had circled the water for a few hours at the weekend in efforts to help the native fish, including some endangered species, survive the conditions.
They headed out in tinnies – “all you can get in there at the moment”, Ms Michie said – using their propellers to aerate the water for fish and other dam dwellers such as turtles.
Ms Michie, a soil and water scientist, said the water was lacking in oxygen and rising in temperature due to low water levels and a lack of flow.