Deni rally to call for water

By Geoff Adams

Drought-hit irrigators in the southern Riverina are planning a rally to ask for more water to be released to finish off crops and grow fodder for NSW.

It will be held next Monday, August 27, in the Deniliquin RSL Club Auditorium, from 10am.

The rally will seek water to be made available so crops in the region can be finished, and also used to help grow desperately needed fodder for drought-stricken stock elsewhere in NSW and Queensland.

Farmers, business leaders and community members are being urged to attend the rally to help send a clear message to politicians.

The rally is being co-ordinated by the lobby group, Speak Up, with help from other people and organisations.

Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar said immediate and united action was needed to overcome the crisis.

‘‘This rally is about finding solutions — it will not be an exercise in playing the blame game, but rather an opportunity to work out what proactive steps we can take together as a community in these difficult times.

‘‘We need a strong, united voice from our community to help ensure our concerns are heard,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.

She said the drought situation highlighted the need to re-assess the allocation of water resources.

‘‘We can either let things continue on the way they are going, which is generally considered to be unsatisfactory, or we can stand up and make our voices heard.

‘‘In this region we have one of the best gravity-fed irrigation systems in the world which has recently had the benefit of significant upgrades.

‘‘It should be used effectively in times of drought to help our entire nation, not virtually put in mothballs.’’

A public meeting of irrigators last Friday at Cohuna called on the governments to release some environmental water for agricultural use to allow food producers to finish their crops and to grow fodder for drought-hit farmers.

General security irrigators in NSW are still waiting for any allocation of water.

Mrs Scoullar said the present water sharing arrangements were seen to be more unsuitable for what was required at the moment when Dartmouth Dam was about 90 per cent of capacity and Hume Dam was holding about 50 per cent.

‘‘There is plenty of water in storage,’’ she said.

Mrs Scoullar said the South Australian lower lakes were at minor flood level, filled largely with flows from the Upper Murray dams. The barrage gates had been opened to let water pour out to sea.

‘‘This is not about taking water from environmental pools and using it for production. It is about common-sense decision making to effectively use our precious water, and this is never more evident than during times of drought.

‘‘Water is not a use only once commodity. Perhaps there are ways to get multiple use so that a parcel of water can be used for both the environment and growing food and fodder supplies.

‘‘These are options that need consideration.’’