Dams, allocations top water survey

Dams, allocations top The Land's survey on water issues

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NSW Farmers' president James Jackson says this drought has shown we need to build more dams. Keepit Dam has risen to 11.2pc from recent rain. Photo: WaterNSW

NSW Farmers' president James Jackson says this drought has shown we need to build more dams. Keepit Dam has risen to 11.2pc from recent rain. Photo: WaterNSW

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Your say on the rainfall and state of water in NSW.

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Building more dams and water allocation is what matters to our readers when it comes to water in NSW.

The Land conducted a comprehensive online water survey to find out what reader's thought about some of the big water issues affecting NSW, what recent rain meant and what rainfall was needed to break the drought.

Of the 138 people surveyed, 33 per cent listed dams at the top of their water concerns with 26pc saying water allocations was one of the biggest water issues facing NSW. More than half (54pc) wanted the government to build more dams to help alleviate some of NSW's water woes.

"The survey tells you the story about the wisdom of the masses, that we are going to have to build more dams and that's the theme across much of the state," said NSW Farmers' president James Jackson, who has analysed the results of The Land survey.

"As we get more prolonged droughts, we need to be able to store more water."

Related reading:How people feel about the Barwon-Darling's first flows

Mr Jackson drew on his own experience in this drought in which his ground water system "held up" but his dams were empty and he had to cart water for domestic needs.

"Like I found my storage wanting, so did a lot of other towns, and the government who found public storages were left wanting," he said.

"This drought has exposed some weaknesses in models and the public storage network as well. Our ground reserves have been depleted and we need to store more in the profile, which is part of the equation."

To ensure water supply for inland towns, Mr Jackson said water could be managed by novel ways like aquifer recharge (pumping surface water into aquifers in times of plenty), which could be one of the options on the table.

Other concerns raised in the survey were the cost of water and the government's management of water.

Related reading:Calls to lift embargo on Barwon-Darling sparks water concern

Despite widespread rainfall, only 1.5pc of the state is not in drought according to the Department of Primary Industries' combined drought indicator.

So it is no surprise of those surveyed that 85pc need more than 200 millimetres to break the drought, while just 3pc don't need any more rainfall at this stage.

This year to date 23 people had 151-200mm, 22 had 51-100mm, while only three recorded well over 500mm.

Last year, 29 people managed to secure 201-250mm, but it was well below 2018, with 22 people recording 151-200m.

The years of 2016 and 2017 saw a jump with more people seeing falls over 500mm, with 65 and 35 people surveyed respectively. It was the same story for how full people's soil profile was with 86 only having 0-40pc.

Mr Jackson said recent rainfall was a good start but there needed to be another event with further planting rain for people to be able to sow winter cereals.

"It's obvious people got good rain especially on the coastal strip but as soon as you get further west it's patchy and many missed out," he said.

Of those surveyed, 67 carted water, 20 of carted carted less than 20,000 litres while 18 carted more than 100,000L. Four people spent more than $100,000 on carting water and 47 spent under $5000.

Mr Jackson said water infrastructure for on-farm storage would be a key focus once this drought broke so that farmers were better equipped for future dry conditions.

"We will need to make sure we don't get caught short next time," he said.

"If the government is keen on resilience, it will need to make sure water infrastructure on-farm was best practice."

Due to lack of rain only 53pc surveyed did not harvest a summer crop.

Meanwhile, several dams hit hard by the ongoing drought have experience a reprieve with recent rain seeing the first inflows for years and a minor increase to dam levels, WaterNSW says. Keepit Dam, which services the town of Walgett as well as other needs on the Namoi River, has seen the best increase, rising to 11.2pc from 0.6 pc just weeks earlier. Rainfall has seen 21 gigalitres flow into Keepit in the past few weeks, which is now holding 53GL, up from 9GL at the same time last year.

Copeton Dam has seen 18GL of inflows bringing levels up to 10.8pc, an incerase from 9.3pc a week earlier.

Chaffey Dam has had limited inflows with increases from 13pc to 14.4pc.

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