Friday, 20 April 2007

Some statistics and politics of drought

“Water is our born right. Even Birdsville has a water supply.”
Coominya resident at an angry meeting with Esk Shire Council in the Gatton Star, April 18, 2007.

The last time it rained in Marburg township was March 25, nearly a month ago. The 4.5mm of rain contributed to a total so far this year of 194.25mm. On average, by the end of March we have had 325.2mm. Last year we had even less rain in those three months which are the key months for rain in southeast Queensland. In contrast, in 2004 we had 450mm in that period.

In 1892, the rainfall was 1311mm. In 1893, 1853mm of rain fell with heavy flooding in Marburg in February and June. In the entire 1890s the average annual rainfall was above 900mm. In 1924 to 1927 rainfall was again low with only 361mm falling in 1926.

Now the hills are shades of tan, brown, gold and fawn. Grass crunches underfoot. Animals are looking thin. Trees look tired and dusty. You can’t see through the dust if you drive down the road too closely behind your neighbour. The relentless sunshine and dry wind continue. Water is not our born right here in Queensland.

In 1876 Gottlieb Raddatz forfeited his selection for auction when he found that he could not access water resources. In 1883 Apostle H.F. Niemeyer could not locate water on his farm and trekked four miles to Grandchester where he had been told there was water. He found a dam with a dead calf in it, but took a bucket of water and boiled it on his return. When his wife joined him on the farm she would walk the distance to Grandchester to do laundry. I think I might have just worn dirty clothes.

Nothing stirs tension and resentment more than water (and grass) in this area. Who has water, who needs water and what people will do to obtain it. Without water, the grass doesn’t grow and the stock suffer. Water has become a commodity, not a right.