By ERWIN CHLANDA
“Yuendumu is running out of water. The town cannot grow any further because of water security.”
That’s the bleak outlook by the Member for Stuart Scott McConnell about a major town in his sprawling electorate – 383,859 square kilometres, 25% bigger than Italy.
The Power and Water Corporation (PWC) confirms the problems, saying “Yuendumu has appeared as a ‘severe risk’ in recent years due to declining water levels and increasing salinity”.
PWC says this has been revealed by the annual assessment of the water source status of all the Aboriginal communities, involving a hydro geological analysis based on the level, quantity and quality of water pumped from the water supply bores and related observation bores.
“Two drilling campaigns in 2015/16 and 2016/17 and costing more than $1.5m failed to locate additional water sources although some poor quality, high salinity bores were cased for the worst case scenario where no feasible alternative exists but desalination,” says PWC.
Yuendumu has smart meters installed on every water connection to enable near real time reporting on leaks to protect limited supplies.
PWC says it works closely with the Department of Housing and Community Development to ensure housing maintenance – leaking taps and so on – are quickly identified and fixed.
“Three communities in the Southern Region are currently being retrofitted with smart water meters as part of the $69m stimulus package to address water issues,” says PWC.
“There are no water restrictions in place but demand management programs are being run to encourage the community to use water wisely and report leaks.
“Without additional water, development is constrained in Yuendumu with developers currently required to be water neutral with any proposed developments.
“PWC is undertaking further investigations to seek further water for Yuendumu.”
Yuendumu, 300 kms north-west of Alice Springs, home to some of Australia’s most celebrated artists, has a population of 687 (2011 census).
The Yuendumu school has 260 students from preschool to senior years. 95% of the students speak Warlpiri as their first language.
The Central Desert Regional Council employs 78 people locally, 85% of them Indigenous.
The town has a sealed airstrip long enough for medium size jets.
By ERWIN CHLANDA