Lachlan irrigator calls for new dams to be built

By Dominic Geiger

Irrigator on the Lachlan River and former Forbes Shire President, Charlie Francis, has been causing a stir in recent weeks with a media campaign aimed at encouraging people to reconsider the need for new dams in the Central West.
Mr Francis had an opinion piece published in The Land Newspaper last fortnight and was featured on the front page of the Forbes Advocate last week.
Mr Francis said he believes new approaches to water conservation are ignoring what has been learned from people working on rivers in the region for over 100 years.
“We need to listen to the stories our grandfathers taught us about irrigation,” he said.
“The Lachlan is not fully conserved; we need to conduct a feasibility study on the river to determine what percentage of the river’s flow can be placed in dams to ensure water security.
“I’m not taking a view that the environment isn’t important; let us determine the allocation necessary for the environment and conserve what’s left in dams.”
Professor Stuart Bunn, Director of The Australian Rivers Institute, said all the signs in the Murray-Darling Basin pointed to a series of rivers under stress due to current over allocations of water.
“My understanding of the Lachlan is that it’s in a relatively poor condition,” he said.
“Proposals now to increase the level of consumptive use of water from the river would be inconsistent with returning river flows to healthy levels.
“We’re in the middle of a wet patch at the moment and the temptation is to believe it will stay that way but we’ll be back to dry conditions before we know it.”
Lachlan Shire Councillor, Les Saunders, said it made more sense to consider new regulation weirs on the Lachlan rather than new dams.
“The Condobolin West Weir was suggested back in 1986; if it had of been built it would have backed water for fourteen miles up the Goobang creek and ensured a water supply for the entire town,” he said.
“The environmental impact of a new regulation weir would be less than a dam because the water would stay within the banks of the river.
“If you were to put a regulation three gate weir in it wouldn’t have an impact on fish stocks either because fish could travel under it.
“The problem with a dam is there’s no place to put it.”

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