Water beginning to trickle down the lower Darling has come as a saving grace in a moment of global crisis.
The first flush down the Darling-Barka in 3 years was always going to bring joy and hope to towns like Menindee, but as Australia braces for the potential public health crisis of COVID-19, the importance of this water cannot be understated.
Towns in far west NSW have relied on drinking water being trucked in by volunteers from Sydney and Adelaide since the massive Menindee fish kills in January 2019. Residents, schools and hospitals had limited access to safe quality water to meet their needs. This created a situation where out-of-town-ers would travel long distances, a situation that wouldn’t be viable in a time of the coronavirus.
It’s vitally important to keep the spread of this disease to a minimum, especially in isolated-regional areas. Luckily these flows coming down through the catchment over the past month provide the essential service that was otherwise being provided by volunteer efforts.
In good news, Wilcannia’s water supply has recently switched back to the local weir pool after years of being connected to groundwater.
Despite the obvious values of these flows, they still aren’t being protected. We’re asking NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey to re-instate the embargo on the Barwon Darling catchment.
The current pandemic we are facing shines a new light on the meaning of an essential service. As Scott Morrison back flips over whether hairdressers are essential, the NSW Government is permitting these life sustaining flows to be pumped and held in private dams to irrigate cotton crops in the future.
As a nation and global community, we are facing a new and unforeseen crisis. Unless we act now to course correct for past mistakes, the current circumstances will only deepen the existing crisis that communities are already facing.
This water is more essential than ever. As domestic travel is restricted, food production and distribution will become more essential than ever before.
Water flowing in the Darling-Barka for the first time in 3 years must be carefully managed to ensure it can meet critical human needs, protect ecosystems and rejuvenate culture.
People and planet must always come before profits, especially in times of crisis.