Monday, March 14, 2016

Long Drought Still Threatening SE Australia, Despite Plentiful Rainfall--
Environmentalists Blamed

Former Broken Hill mayor Ron Page stands in an empty Lake Menindee in far west NSW. Picture: David Geraghty

Lovingly lifted from The Australian(dot)Com, March 5, 2016, this problematic,
environmental-activist news:

The stately Darling River has stopped flowing south of Wilcannia in western NSW, reducing it to a few stinking stagnant pools and kilometres of dry mud.

The nine natural lakes in the vast Menindee Lakes system fed by the Darling are also empty, ­robbing the inland city of Broken Hill and its 19,000 inhabitants of their only source of fresh drinking water and leaving many of its young and elderly with skin sores and infections.

The once-lush river town of nearby Menindee has been left with no irrigation water, dead grape vines, no beachside Sunset Strip resort or fishing club and no tourists now its mighty inland lakes, three times as big as Sydney Harbour when full, have vanished.
Standing on the forlorn edge of empty Lake Menindee where small yachts used to sail and yellow belly swim, former long-time Broken Hill mayor Ron Page suspects a conspiracy to strip the far west of its valuable water reserves.

“We shouldn’t have run out of water at all; the lakes were full after the 2013 floods and that should have lasted much longer than two years; but they let it ­almost all go in February 2014 for the environment and go sell,” Mr Page says.

Wilcannia locals, who must boil their tap water before it is safe to use, are so angry at the death of their lifeblood inland river they are planning to blockade the main bridge linking Sydney and ­Brisbane to Adelaide to focus ­national attention on their plight.
“We would accept it if it was just nature but this is a man-made problem; they’ve deliberately emptied the lakes, wiped Menindee off the map, Broken Hill has nearly run out of water and we have no river — and yet no one seems to care what’s happening to us here out west.”
But in Broken Hill, where the last murky weir on the Darling River at Menindee that supplies the city with increasingly dub­ious-quality water is perilously close to running out, doctor Ramu Nachiappan says there is no time to waste.

Even though state-owned water provider Essential Water says these river dregs from toxic Weir 32 pass formal water-quality tests after heavy daily treatment including reverse osmosis, desalin­ation and chlorination, Dr ­Nachiappan is seeing children and elderly patients every day with rashes, skin infections and sores.

He says that while the treated water might be technically safe to drink, it is bad-smelling, nasty tasting, has a high salt level and is causing dry skin, itchiness, irrit­ation, sores and rashes.
“This is a resilient community but we are being treated shamefully and forced to live in third- world conditions,” says Dr ­Nachiappan.

Broken Hill mother and midwifery student Lindsey Ball says she is sick of living with red dirt, no lawn, a dying garden, strict water restrictions and tap water so bad she will not allow her two young daughters, Sierra, 4, and Airlie, 1, to use for drinking or bathing.

But the $20 a week she has to spend buying bottled water at the supermarket is straining the young family’s budget, with the Balls wondering if it is time to sell their home and quit Broken Hill for good.

Broken Hill’s “We Want ­Action” group is so enraged by the predicament of their historic city and its residents, and the loss of their basic human right to safe and clean drinking water, a legal class action is being planned against the NSW government.

The NSW government says it is committed to solving Broken Hill’s water predicament as a “No 1 priority”, and is about to start pumping from new groundwater bores drilled into the dry bed of Lake Menindee.

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