Deputy PM vows to tackle water crisis
THE Deputy Prime Minister has flagged the federal government could help states gripped by a water crisis amid projections that major rural towns' supplies could run dry within weeks.
Michael McCormack vowed to stand by states with looming drinking water shortages today following reports over the weekend that the rivers and dams supplying towns such as Dubbo could run dry as soon as November.
Water supply was a state responsibility, the Nationals' leader said but flagged that the federal government would "take on board" requests for assistance.
"Of course we'll stand by the states," Mr McCormack told ABC radio today.
"We'll see what they ask of us," he said.
"We need to make sure there's drinking water for those communities and we'll do that."
Mr McCormack also backed NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro's call today to limit environmental impact studies to build dams faster, but did not believe they could be scrapped entirely.
"Environmental impact studies at times take up a lot of work and a lot of years and you'll always get some environmentalist who will find a frog or who will find something to roadblock a dam or roadblock a road. They'll always find something," he said.
"You have to do some environmental studies, of course you do, but let's be reasonable about this."
Mr McCormack also agreed it was time to "stop the bureaucratic nonsense" and fast track dams but said community consultation was necessary.
It comes amid projections from WaterNSW that Dubbo, Cobar, Nyngan and Narromine's could see water shortages as early as November when the Macquarie River is forecast to run dry.
The Macquarie River experiences an average inflow of 1448GL annually but in the past two years has seen just 97GL enter the river system, data seen by AAP shows.
Australia's longest river - the Murray - which is part of the Murray Darling Basin plan, has also been severely affected with 901GL of water entering the system in the past 12 months compared to its annual average of 5000GL.
Menindee Lakes - which is a source of flows for the Lower Darling - received just six gigalitres of water in the past year. It's annual inflow average is 1387GL.
The lakes sit within the town of Menindee which experienced mass fish deaths along the Darling River last summer.
The Lachlan River, which runs through the state's central west, is projected to run dry by March 2020 leaving the towns of Forbes, Cowra and Parkes without water supply.
The river is the fourth-longest in Australia and annually receives an average of 1212GL of water, but in the last year recorded inflows of just 107GL.
A group of rivers which straddle the NSW and Queensland border and supply water to the towns of Boggabilla, Ashford and Goondiwindi, received just 17GL of inflows in the past year compared to an annual average of 1000GL.
WaterNSW predicts the border rivers will run dry by September 2020, under a worst-case scenario.