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Western Australia Minister for Water, Dave Kelly, has declared a water deficiency for Salmon Gums in the shire of Esperance, making it the tenth water deficiency declared for WA since May 2019.

The official declaration follows an application from the Shire of Esperance on behalf of eleven farmers in Salmon Gums. A declaration is made as a last resort after continued dry conditions have depleted on-farm and local community water supplies. 

The declaration will see the State Government cart about 850 kilolitres of water each week from Norseman to existing tanks at the Salmon Gums Quarry dam, reducing 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 (DWER) with support from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and the Water Corporation.

Water made available to farmers through Water Deficiency Declarations is strictly for emergency livestock purposes and should not be accessed for any other purpose, including crop spraying.

To conserve this precious resource, farmers accessing this emergency water are encouraged to store the water in closed tanks, rather than on-farm dams, where water losses are high due to evaporation.

Western Australia Minister for Agriculture and Food, Alannah MacTiernan, said, “The State Government is well aware of the impact a changing climate is having on agribusinesses throughout WA and is working on a range of fronts to build resilience and provide innovative solutions to water supply challenges in the short and longer term.

“While water deficiency declarations provide immediate relief to livestock producers and their animals, we are also collaborating with local government, industry and academia to develop more sophisticated, robust and adaptable farming systems that can withstand seasonal fluctuations.”

This is the tenth water deficiency to be declared in Western Australia since May 2019, as dry conditions continue in the great southern agricultural region due to climate change.

Water deficiency declarations are currently in effect within the Shires of Ravensthorpe, Lake Grace, Kent, Jerramungup, Esperance and Dumbleyung.

“The Great Southern Agricultural Region is experiencing unprecedented dry conditions following two years of well below average annual rainfall. We now have ten water deficiency declarations and the possibility of more to come,” Mr Kelly said.

“According to rainfall figures from the Bureau of Meteorology’s Salmon Gums Station, 2019 (201mm) was the third driest year on record.”

Mr Kelly said that the recent rainfall was insufficient to alleviate the demand for water carting, despite it providing some relief.

“The ten concurrent water deficiencies now in place across the region emphasises that the Great Southern Agricultural Region is one of the most impacted places on the planet for reduced rainfall due to climate change.

“In the past 12 months, the State Government has invested more than $1.5 million in 34 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. 

“We have never before seen such a high demand for water carting in the state, with the cost of carting water for both public drinking and animal welfare needs estimated at more than $4 million since January 2019.”

DWER is liaising with local government authorities and farmers in other dryland areas to monitor their on-farm water storage and requirements. The department is encouraging farmers to continue to return their farm water surveys, and local government authorities to consider Community Water Supply Program grant applications in areas of need.

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