All Dried Up
Central NSW – Canberra, Australia
Having lived in this district for over 30 years, I feel that I am more than qualified to make comment on the current weather patterns and conditions prevailing.
From Orange (Central Tablelands) to Canberra (Capital of Australia) is a distance of around 350 kilometers. The countryside consists mainly of open plains punctuated with rolling hills and divided by numerous waterways. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood and lifestyle. It is the area of breeding studs for horses, cattle and sheep as well as some the finest wine growing country in Australia. In years gone by, this area always survived drought. It was always considered to be consistently green and lush – a reliable area for productivity – a food basket sustaining the population within the towns that grew from the initial settlements.
Recently, three weeks ago, I threw myself and two daughters into the car for a trip to visit a friend in Canberra. I could not believe what I saw. Where once was an eiderdown quilt of vibrant green blanketing the hills – now had become an enormous dust bath. Those exact same hills that projected life, were now dead or dying. Tones and hues of crackling gold and dried up brown were all I could see for mile after mile after mile. I was devastated to say the least. Tears of horror and disbelief rolled down my cheeks as I searched the horizon for a sign of the agricultural morgue to end! Stoney, dry creekbeds and waterways were crossed one after the other. After the shock of witnessing this natural crime, it dawned on me just how difficult it must be for the farmers and business relying on their mother earth. The heartbreak that they must be enduring as they would watch their livestock perish and their crops fail.
I have lived through several major droughts in several regions of this marvellous country, but never before have I seen a situation quite like this. Several towns within this district are down to only 12% of their water supply. Water usage has been restricted to basic survival needs only: No watering outside at all, timed showers, recycling waste water, everything and every life depends on the honest usage of our precious commodity. There has been talk from the government of transporting water into the worst effected areas, but this is only a bandaid solution. Rain and lots of it is the only solution.
From the present set of circumstances springs a new phenomenon – water crimes! Theft of water from tanks, bores and private resources. It is a punishable crime to water outside of restrictions, incurring hefty fines and a criminal record.
I put forward a request…no, a demand, that all who are traveling within drought affected areas of Australia be aware of our plight. To waste the life giving element we so badly need to conserve is a blatant act of disregard and selfishness. The thought that parts of this great country may turn to arid waste land is unbearable, every last drop counts.
As I pray for rain and watch the skies constantly for hope, I also dream of seeing those green eiderdown hills again.