Here’s another forecast. The Federal Government will lose the upcoming federal election if it makes the false assumption Crikey made yesterday: that a few rain clouds are enough to wipe out a one in 100 (1,000 ?) year drought.

These pictures are all of Lake Eppalock, and show what a water storage facility looks like when it gets down to 0.7% of its capacity. The pictures were taken on Sunday and show recent rains have had very little impact, despite 44 mm of rain recorded there in the past week. City folks see a bit of rain and forget the drought, but for the residents of areas like Bendigo it’s not that easy.

For those not familiar with Eppalock, until recently she had been not only a water catchment for irrigation, but also a hub of boating and leisure activities. The Bendigo yacht club used to lay claim to being Australia’s biggest inland yacht club.

At the opening of the 2006-7 season the locals still professed to have “no water but plenty of optimism” but to date the rains they are hoping for have not materialised. As far back as 2003 the decrease in tourism was estimated to be costing the area $6.619 million.

My wife recently spoke to a friend who works for a water catchment management authority. They don’t usually talk politics but only a few weeks ago she told her that she had voted Liberal all her life without fail – until this election. She said she was annoyed with John Howard’s failure to take action on water. And that was after Howard announced his $10 billion Murray-Darling plan.

Country people can be like that, harsh and unforgiving. Much like the climate they have to endure. The problem for Howard is the more he began to take the drought seriously in recent months, the more it begged the question: Why now? Why not a few years ago?

As long ago as 2003, the Bendigo community was counting the cost of the drought. They didn’t need Howard to tell them to pray for rain.