Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

So that’s where it went

It’s the equivalent of someone leaving the gate open on a farm, only worse because this was deliberate. Someone let the water out of Menindee Lakes.

A lake system that normally holds three times more water than Sydney Harbour is now virtually empty, thanks to a release of more than 300 gigalitres in 2013 that left so little in the lakes most of it has since evaporated.

Can you imagine the outcry if they drained Sydney Harbour?

When I first went to live in Broken Hill Menindee Lake looked like this:

Kinchega National Park

photo taken by John Spencer

Now it looks like this:

dry menindee lake

According to the ABC  Menindee Lake has been bone dry since mid way through 2014, and that’s why Broken Hill is on Stage Three water restrictions. Traditionally, Broken Hill’s water supply has come from the lakes.

There are a lot of angry people in Broken Hill, and you can understand why. As one local said, “It’s going to take a natural disaster further north (such as massive flooding in Queensland) to combat a man-made disaster here.”

It’s only flooding further north that will encourage sufficient water to flow into the Darling, and they’re still locked in drought further north. The situation isn’t helped by cotton farmers diverting whatever water they can to plant more crops. I’m sorry to point the finger, but why grow cotton in a semi-arid country like Australia, where water flows are never guaranteed?

Labor has successfully pushed for a senate enquiry and around $500m has been pledged to find a permanent solution to Broken Hill’s water supply. Meanwhile the mighty Darling River is slowly choking to death.

Rob McBride pic

Rob McBride stands on the dry Darling River bed, just south of Menindee Lakes

Rob McBride’s compelling two-minute u-tube video says it all.

Drought has not been declared in this area, yet there’s a critical shortage of water.

A desalination plant is now processing the salty dregs of what’s left in the lake, and when that runs out Broken Hill will switch to bore water, forecast to last only until 2019.

Rumour and gossip spread quickly in a town like this. People point to unexplained skin rashes and blame the water, yet the local hospital investigated and found no sudden increase in skin conditions. I suspect the worry and insecurity of not knowing when the water problem will be fixed doesn’t help the situation.

Whatever solution is proposed let’s not forget that without regular flows, the mighty Darling River will stagnate and die.

Surely we cannot allow that to happen.




16 comments on “So that’s where it went

  1. monsoonwendy
    April 1, 2016

    Oh Deb, this is heart breaking. Shocking stuff. On a human and ecological level. I wonder if Tim Flanagan and John Doyle or Two Min in a Tinny fame would be worth contacting about it all. I am sure they are very aware but things seem to have taken a dreadful turn for the worse.
    Sending you love from here where today water abounds. Mind you, the day before my arrival a massive dust storm diverted all international flights!


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      April 1, 2016

      Great suggestions Wendy, I’ll try and send them a link. Glad you arrived safely and watch out for those mosquitoes! lots of love x


  2. Thelma and Jack Burke.
    April 1, 2016

    Deb. Heard of this when we were in BH. The actions of some people leave you wondering. Don’t have the words to describe it. Thelma and Jack


  3. judithbooth
    April 1, 2016

    Hi Deb. How right you are to comment on this. It is disgraceful. So much just pushed under the rug. No wonder the river looks so healthy downstream. We travelled from Blanchetown to Mannum over Easter and the river was flowing beautifully. One of the TV shows last week (in SA) had a brilliant article on the river. Lake Alexandrina is also another huge problem. Here the fresh water gathers in a shallow huge lake to evaporate.. Probably none to slowly! We need a body to overlook the whole river’s wellbeing and to allocate and control water supply without prejudice!!!! The sooner the better. It is lifeline to so much but could be so much more if managed properly. Keep up your good work. Maybe you should write a book on the River…how good would that be!! Judithxxx


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      April 1, 2016

      I agree Judith, water supply should be a federal issue. Not sure I’m the right person to write a book about it though, I’m not good on politics!! x


  4. Eliza Waters
    April 1, 2016

    What a shocking travesty. Who did this and why are they not held accountable?


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      April 1, 2016

      Hi Eliza, terrible isn’t it? I think that’s why they’ve called a Senate inquiry, they want to find out who was responsible.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. nantubre
    April 1, 2016

    Unspeakable tragedy. How could the person(s) responsible live with themselves?


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      April 1, 2016

      To be fair they were probably just doing what they were told to do. Lets hope it never happens again, although I’m told this isn’t the first time…


  6. Nandini Ray
    April 1, 2016

    Oh Deb this is heartbreaking for such a fine and proud city. Those beautiful lakes in all their glory and breathtaking beauty. It is staggering to think that the communities that rely on these water supplies are ignored. Not to mentioned the environmental consequences. Glad you had some time out there – your photos were beautiful. xx


  7. rthepotter
    April 3, 2016

    Like is the wrong word, but interesting account of what is obviously a very difficult situation. Even in our wetter part of the world it’s getting a bit iffy these days.


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      April 5, 2016

      I remember standpipes in England when droughts caused reservoir levels to drop. Makes you realise what a precious commodity water is.


  8. Isabelle P.
    April 12, 2016

    This is a real tragedy! What a disaster. I hope your government will be able to create laws, make sure they are applied and sue the people who ordered such a thing, so this won’t never happen again.


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This entry was posted on April 1, 2016 by and tagged , , , , .

I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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