Agriculture

Let’s talk water

National Water Week is running between October 19 to 25, reminding us once again that we need to conserve one of our most precious resources – water.

The week is organised by the Australian Water Association. The organisation and its state branches aim to encourage and educate communities, people, and industries about water conservation.

This year’s theme for the week is Reimagining our water future. The organisation is concerned about water shortages in the future, as the population is growing. It aims to educate people and industries to rethink current water practices.

It is running activities such as competitive events, learning programs, conferences and an online learning festival for students as well as professionals.

Photo: Australian Water Association

What does the future of our water look like?

Greens (WA) MLC for the South West Diane Evers says there are changes that need to be made to current state government policies, specifically to do with water rights and access to water in country areas. She says often the government has concentrated on encouraging individual people to conserve their water but there are big water users where efficiency is not encouraged.

“Government need to look at where the majority of water is going to and work out how they can work with those people to reduce their use of it,” she says.

Ms Evers says this attention needs to be shifted to large scale agriculture, where the water may not be used wisely.

In a 2019 press release The Nationals WA said “the State Government should aid greater support to individual farmers in the Great Southern who are suffering some of the lowest rainfall levels on record.”

Recent State Government initiatives include the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme. The scheme proposes the construction of a reservoir and 250km pipeline network that brings in water from the Donnelly River.

Ms Evers thinks this scheme is a bad idea and will be a waste of money. She says this is not only because the rainfall might not fill the dams but because it is inequitable.

“It is taking water for a dam that has rainfall and farmers want that rain to grow their crops and says to those farmers ‘you can’t take any more for yourself, we are going to take it from that catchment and pump it through a series of pipes to another catchment’,”she says

Ms Evers says in some cases where farmers don’t have enough water this may be because they haven’t managed their land properly and it has deteriorated.

“We are currently waiting for the Environmental Protection Agency to make a determination on it, but that I understand that it may take till the middle of next year,” she says.

The Environmental Protection Authority said it would be calling for public comment on the scheme between December 2020 and February 2021, and will make final decisions after that.

Ms Evers says she hopes the scheme will be stopped and the government will then move on to look at how we can best achieve resilience in our landscape and work with the rainfall we have.

She says regional areas are going to have a shortfall in water and that could be a problem as water is already carried by truck to these areas: “We are going to be water-stressed, but we need to learn to minimise our use of it and we need to learn to look after it.

“There is a lot of work to be done and it is difficult because we need a lot of education to make it happen.”