A drought in Western Australia’s south-west has left irrigators with heavily reduced water allocations ahead of summer.
Water allocations in the Harvey-Waroona district are at 50 per cent from now until September next year.
Harvey Water general manager Geoff Calder said the region has experienced low-rainfall seasons about once every five years since the 1990s.
Mr Calder said he believed that dry seasons in the south-west region seemed to follow the pattern of the El Niño.
“We had our first serious dry year in 2001, then 2006, 2010-11 and 2015,” he said.
“We are seeing that it’s roughly in similar years [as El Niño] but certainly not with the same viciousness.”
Mr Calder said inflow into the Harvey Dam is only at a third of where it was in 2014.
He said there was 35 gigalitres inflow last year compared to 10 this year, which indicated a drought.
“The dam is actually dropping,” he said.
“In our terms 50 per cent allocation is a pretty clear drought.”
Harvey dairy farmer Fabian Italiano said the reduced water allocations and lack of rainfall over the growing season created challenging summer conditions.
Mr Italiano milks about 250 cows and he said his hay was at about half of its average yields.
He said it has been a terrible season.
“The only thing we can do is look for more hay, buy water and give the cows a bit more grain,” he said.
Mr Italiano said the season started well but overall it was a dry winter.
He said the cost of feed was also a significant burden for livestock producers.
“We’re looking at $300 a tonne [for hay], which is a bit over double what it normally is,” he said.
“We don’t know what the grain price is going to be, but we have to look at their weather as well as our weather.”
Mr Italiano said dairy farmers and other livestock producers were “at the bottom of the food chain” in terms of input costs.
He said this year farmers would be forced to buy extra feed and water, but they would not be able to obtain any rise in milk price due to the dry conditions.
(Source – http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-23/farmers-affected-by-drought-in-south-west-wa/6879086)