State Government Confirms: ‘NSW Is Now 100 Per Cent In Drought’

NEWS.com.auMegan Palin

THE entire state of NSW has been declared in drought as farmers battle the brunt of the crisis and some regions are put on extreme water restrictions, limiting residents to three-minute showers.
Drought ravaged north west NSW is battling through one of the worst dry spells in history. This aerial image shows wandering sheep looking for food at James Foster's property 90km west of Walgett. Picture: Sam Ruttyn. Source: News Corp Australia
THE entire state of NSW is now impacted by drought as extreme measures including water restrictions are tightened in a bid to combat the crisis.
According to the Department of Primary Industries, 61 per cent of NSW is either in drought or intense drought, while nearly 39 per cent is drought affected. “This is tough,” NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said in a statement on Wednesday.
“There isn’t a person in the state that isn’t hoping to see some rain for our farmers and regional communities,” he said.
A drier-than-expected June and July has left many farmers with failing crops, a short supply of water and diminishing livestock feed. In some regions, water restrictions have been tightened to the point that residents can only do a maximum of two loads of washing a week and take three minute showers.
Drought conditions are affecting farmers in NSW. Cam Armstrong on a dried up dam on his sheep farm in Cassilis, NSW. Picture: Liam Driver. Source: News Corp Australia
Less than 10 millimetres of rain was recorded in the western, north west, and central areas of NSW over the past month and drier-than-normal conditions are forecast for the next three months across the majority of the state. The combined drought indicator — which takes in rainfall, soil water, plant growth and long term climate data — shows no part of NSW is recovering despite some recent rain.
“Producers are now faced with some very difficult decisions on whether to graze sown crops or rely on potential rainfall in the next two months in order to increase yield production,” Mr Blair said.
“Some areas of the state did receive some welcome rainfall this month that has provided a little relief for stock and domestic water; unfortunately though it will not even come close to the recovery needed for most farmers.
“The forecast suggests an increase of drier than normal conditions for the next three months across the majority of NSW but I want every farmer and community to know that we will stand with them through this challenging time and continue to make sure we have the right support available.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this week toured drought-stricken communities to announce $12,000 grants for each affected farming family. The NSW government has also doubled its funding commitments to struggling farmers with a total of $1 billion pledged towards the growing crisis.
On the more extreme end of the scale, residents in the small town of Murrurundi in the state’s Upper Hunter Region have been placed on level six water restrictions which limits them to two full washing loads of clothes a week and three-minute showers.
The restrictions are intended to buy residents another three or four months of water, with the town otherwise expected to completely run out within weeks.
Upper Hunter Shire Mayor Wayne Bedggood said the council was using the bought time to seek additional sources of water.
“After level six restrictions, we face emergency measures. Field work is underway to find new bore locations and we are seeking funds from the state government for new pipe infrastructure and — in the worst case scenario — to truck more water into town,” he said.
“Under the current weather conditions and infrastructure, the system would only provide sufficient potable water until the end of this year, so we need to find other sources, prior to the completion of the Scone to Murrurundi pipeline in 2020.”
State-owned corporation WaterNSW manages rivers and water supply systems, including 40 dams. Executive manager for systems operations Adrian Langdon told the ABC that the long-range forecast looked ahead three months and dry conditions were predicted to continue. He said without rain, there was not a lot WaterNSW could do to alleviate water scarcity in places like Murrurundi, the ABC reports.
“We’re reliant on other sources such as groundwater supplies and those types of things to support these communities,” Mr Langdon said.

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