My family and I are in central west NSW on a mixed farming enterprise. The land is very flat and has no creeks or rivers nearby. It’s what you would call semi arid marginal farming country with a rainfall of 18 inches (450mm) per year. When we do receive rain it usually soaks in and does not run into dams unless it is a big rain event (75mm and over). I have ten dams, which fill this way.
At the moment, we are suffering from drought and are feeding all animals on the farm with the fodder we store in good wet years (oats, wheat and hay). My family has been on this farm for over 100 years, I am fourth generation and hopefully my son will be the fifth. We have learnt to live with nature and the climate and make a good living from it.
We have a bore which accesses the Great Artesian Basin. It is a sub artesian which does not flow to the surface, however rises in the bore hole from pressure deep inside the earth. Since the Department of Land and Water (DIPNR) allocated underground irrigation bore licences in the early to mid 1990s our lives and the lives of our neighbours have taken a turn for the worse.
In 1997/98, some 18 stock and domestic bores were affected and compensation was given in the form of a bore subsidy program organised by the Department and irrigators. The affected bores suffered either poor water quality and/or were sucked completely dry. As time has passed, it’s clear that this compensation was a short term fix, as we are now revisiting some bores. This is a direct result of continual water extraction from irrigation bores in our area. These irrigation bores are pumping out of the Great Artesian Basin sandstone beds with full permission from DIPNR (despite the department saying they would not allow irrigation bores in the G.A.B).
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- Water quality is becoming saltier;
- Water levels have continued to fall 17-28 metres;
- 18 stock and domestic bore users have suffered in the past;
- Approx 41 plus stock and domestic bore users are currently experiencing no water or water quality problems;
- More irrigation bores have been allowed to be sunk; and,
- Irrigators have been encouraged to develop more infrastructure (reservoirs, land levelling, centre pivots etc) when there is clearly a shortage of water from the underground system.
All of this could have been prevented if the Department had done its job and enforced the conditions of licences and the Water Act. However, they did not and this needs to be investigated by an independent body (for money under the table). The new water sharing plans are cutting the bore irrigation allocations that have never been able to be pumped by rrigators in our Area 8. This is not slowing the pumping down at all.
Some of those underground irrigators have been water trading for many years with full knowledge to the local departmental staff, and making many thousands of dollars at the expense of the local community. DIPNR have failed to protect this water supply because they have been influenced by short-term, narrow-minded greedy irrigators and multinational companies thinking of profits and not the long term effects of over-extraction of water.
These people will pack up and move on, while we are left here to cope with extremely poor water quality or no water at all.