Our rivers, the lifeblood of our community, have been grossly mismanaged given our changing climate, and water saving measures have not been put in place. Walgett means ‘the meeting of two rivers’, the Barwon and Namoi, and yet no water currently flows in those rivers at Walgett. The town’s drinking water supply is coming from the Great Artesian Basin since the Namoi River has dried up. We have held significant concerns for some time about the high levels of sodium in this bore water and the serious implications for a community with high levels of chronic disease, informed by world experts who have tested Walgett’s drinking water. Long term use of bore water in the drinking water system is neither a safe or viable solution for Walgett.
Our concerns were realised when Walgett’s drinking water supply was jeopardised over the new year period after a breakdown at the local treatment plant, leaving the water levels in the reservoir at critical levels and Walgett Shire Council urging residents to conserve filtered water for drinking. With temperatures reaching well over 40 degrees, some residents were also left without air conditioning after evaporative air conditioners could not operate. Concerned people from across NSW donated bottled water to Walgett residents, in a moving display of generosity and shared outrage that Walgett could be so vulnerable to losing its water supply.
Water and related issues are a priority for the Yuwaya Ngarra-li partnership. As part of the long-term commitment to Walgett through Yuwaya Ngarra-li, UNSW Engineering’s IMPACT Engineers and the Global Water Institute were invited by DEG to visit many months ago to scope water projects, including new infrastructure, training and long term capacity building.
The YN team developed and provided an induction program for the students in Sydney and then with Elders in Walgett. While in Walgett the team were invited to scope water projects for the Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service's Community Garden, and the provision of Drinking Water Kiosks.
Please read our full statement.