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Many Wheatbelt dams ‘failed’ in 2018-2020: GGA gets $3m for dam improvement project

09/03/22 - A suite of innovative drought projects in the Wheatbelt with the potential to deliver “broad-scale agricultural change” have received a $6 million Federal Government boost to get them off the ground.

The biggest — dubbed WaterSmart Dams — is set to “make dams work again” across WA’s vast agricultural region after research revealed 25-100 per cent of Wheatbelt dams “failed” in 2018-2020.

The three-year project will investigate solutions including renovating dams, building new dams, and implementing evaporation suppression and runoff technologies.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud last Wednesday announced $2.99m would be delivered to SW WA Drought Hub lead Grower Group Alliance, through the $5 billion Future Drought Fund’s

“We want Australian farmers, and the communities that depend on them, to thrive through future droughts,” he said.

A further $1m will be contributed by the State Government.

It will be carried out across 12 core sites, with support from the University of Western Australia, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, and grower groups Compass Agricultural Alliance, Southern Dirt, Merredin and Districts Farm Improvement Group and Fitzgerald Biosphere Group.

SW WA Drought Hub acting director Mark Holland said the work — which would be shared during workshops, field days and training — would be of interest to “every farmer who had a dam”.

“This is a highly collaborative project involving an excellent team, and aligns with the SW WA Hub’s purpose of improving the drought resilience of farmers and their communities,” he said.

It comes in the midst of an unprecedented couple of years for WA growers, during which the State Government spent more than $3m carting emergency livestock water to 12 localities declared water deficient in 2019 and 2020.

Many farms — some of which had run sheep for generations — were forced to destock, with some two million sheep sent over east in a heartbreaking period for the sector.

While last year’s record-breaking rainfall replenished water levels enough that the declarations were lifted, Grass Patch and Salmon Gums once again received the declaration — which engages the State Government to cart water to tanks in the towns — this February, following lobbying from the Shire of Esperance and local farmers.

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Simon and Wendy Williamson’s rebuilt ‘roaded catchment’, dam and silt trap at Kukerin in WA’s Upper Great Southern region. Credit: Peter Clifton, South West Catchments Council./Supplied



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