Water deficiency has been declared in the Shires of Jerramungup and Esperance, bringing the total of such declarations in Western Australia to 12 since May 2019.

The WA Government has now begun carting water to the shires for emergency water supplies for animal welfare needs. 

The official declaration follows applications from the Shire of Jerramungup on behalf of ten farmers in the Gairdner farming area, located over 40km west of Jerramungup, and the Shire of Esperance on behalf of five farmers in the Cascade area. 

The declaration for the Shire of Jerramungup will initially see up to 660KL of water carted each week to two 75,000L mobile water tanks at the Co-operative Bulk Handling’s (CBH) site on South Coast Highway, Gairdner, while a longer-term site is prepared. 

Water will be sourced from the Great Southern Towns Water Supply Scheme and from the Water Corporation’s Bolganup Dam. 

The water for the Shire of Esperance will be delivered to mobile tanks on Cascade oval, opposite the Cascade Primary School.

Water carting significantly reduces the distance farmers need to travel to source emergency livestock water.

Water carting arrangements are being managed by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation with support from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, and Water Corporation.

A declaration is made as a last resort after continued dry conditions have depleted on-farm and local community water supplies. 

The growing number of districts declaring water deficiency is an alarming sign of the impacts of climate change on rainfall in the Great Southern agricultural region.

The Great Southern agricultural region is experiencing extremely dry conditions following two years of well-below-average annual rainfall. These conditions have led to an unprecedented 12 water deficiency declarations.

WA Minister for Water, Dave Kelly, said that according to rainfall figures from the Bureau of Meteorology, Gairdner Station has experienced two consecutive years of rainfall well below its annual average of 450mm (319mm in 2019 and 294mm in 2018).

“The 2018 figure is its third-lowest rainfall figure on record. While there has been some recent rainfall in the area, it has not alleviated the need for water carting,” Mr Kelly said.

Rainfall figures from the Bureau of Meteorology’s Kanga Downs Station, located 5.8km from Cascade, show the area has also experienced two consecutive years of well-below average rainfall.

Normally averaging 400mm, the past two years have seen Cascade’s rainfall levels drop to 212mm in 2019 and 302mm in 2018.

Water deficiencies have also been declared in the following shires:

  • Ravensthorpe (Mount Short and West River area)
  • Lake Grace (in the Mallee Hill area and Ardler Road area)
  • Kent (Hollands Rock and South Kent)
  • Jerramungup North and Esperance (Grass Patch and Salmon Gums)
  • Dumbleyung (Kukerin)

“This government has made, and will continue to make, significant investment into strategic community water infrastructure. The McGowan Government has spent around $1.5 million on developing and upgrading 37 community water supplies in the south-east wheatbelt (dryland agriculture communities) in the last 12 months,” Mr Kelly said.  

“This is the second water deficiency declaration in the past week and the 12th concurrent declaration in just over a year.

“The impact of climate change on reducing rainfall in this region is clear in our south-eastern region; from Grass Patch and Kukerin to Lake Grace and now Cascade.

“Like these other areas with declarations already in place, Cascade has been especially dry over the past two years.

“We have never before seen such a high demand for water carting in the state, with carting costs for water deficiency declarations at more than $2.8 million as of the end of May 2020.

“In addition, the State Government has invested more than $1.5 million in 37 projects designed to improve community water supplies, including work on dams, catchments and bores.

“The state is calling on the Federal Government to support an expansion of this important work through the new Future Drought Fund.” 

Water being carted under water deficiency declarations is strictly for emergency livestock and, if required, local firefighting emergencies. 

The WA Government has encouraged farmers who require crop spray water to access scheme standpipes for this purpose, and to contact their shire or visit Water Corporation’s website for scheme standpipe locations.

In light of continuing water shortages and the need to conserve this precious resource, farmers who are carting livestock water have been encouraged to cart to closed storages or tanks rather than into dams where water losses are high through evaporation. 

WA Minister for Agriculture and Food, Alannah MacTiernan, said that while the season has broken across much of the agricultural region, areas on the south coast are still experiencing significantly below average rainfall, which is impacting broad acre agribusinesses.

“This 12th water deficiency declaration highlights the climatic challenges facing our farmers, who are doing their best to employ sustainable land use strategies to remain viable,” Ms MacTiernan said. 

“While there has been widespread rainfall in recent weeks, there simply has not been enough to produce runoff into dams. 

“This is a unique situation to have so many water deficiency declarations over such a wide area of the grainbelt, and we are working together with industry and government agencies to assist landholders to adapt to a changing climate.”

Season 2020 farming advice, business information and the Support Services Directory can be found here.  

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