More fish deaths expected in Darling River after new blue-green algae alert issued
A new blue-green algae red alert has sparked fears of more fish kills further along the Darling River. (Supplied: Graham McCrab )
There are fresh fears of more mass fish deaths in waterways in far western New South Wales after another red alert for blue-green algae was issued.
Water New South Wales posted the warning for blue-green algae in the upper Darling River at Louth and Trevallyn, near Bourke, on Monday.
Both towns are upstream of the Menindee Lake system, where multiple red alerts are already in place.
The toxic algae has been blamed by fishers for causing the recent deaths of about 10,000 native fish in the river at Menindee, east of Broken Hill.
The water authority has advised people not to swim or drink contaminated water in red alert areas and farmers have been asked to find alternative water sources for livestock.
Louth locals concerned they may see more mass fish kills like this at Menindee last week. (Supplied: Graham McCrab )
Water authority spokesman Tony Webber said he expected there would be more fish deaths as dry conditions persisted.
He said there had been significant fish kills already this summer in the Menindee Lakes area and downstream at the Keepit Dam near Tamworth.
“Without significant rainfall, with a continuation of this chronic low flow, and acute drought conditions, the environment is suffering,” Mr Webber said.
Local residents not surprised about new alert
The red alert has come as no surprise to Louth locals, like Shindy’s Inn publican Kathy Barnes.
She said fish were not the creatures dying as the drought tightened it grip on the far west; she said she had seen dead birds along the riverbank.
Ms Barnes said the view of the Darling River from the pub was nothing but a “pothole” of water.
The local publican is worried continued fish deaths will impact on fishers visiting the region’s towns. (Supplied: Graham McCrab )
As the river drops to critically low levels, she is worried that the appeal of fishing — a popular activity for tourists — will disappear too.
“It’s going to turn a lot of people away because there’s no point to go fishing when there’s no river,” Ms Barnes said.
Water management changes needed says farmer
For grazier Stuart Lelievre, who lives near Louth, the declining water quality in the far west is “typical drought”.
“Even in the millennium drought, we still had six or eight foot of water in [his farm supply] even though it was very salty, but it’s still water,” he said.
There is about six weeks of water in his rainwater tanks and after that supply runs dry, Mr Lelievre said he may have to cart water from Louth.
He said he wants to see change around water management to ensure a better water supply.
“I just hope that when this is all over and done with, this water debate then deals with situations like this because we shouldn’t be in this predicament so early [in the drought],” he said.
Back at Shindy’s Inn, Ms Barnes said she can still serve her customers tap water from the pub’s rainwater tanks.
The visitors that come through are shocked at the state of the river and Ms Barnes said their shock may help raise awareness of the severity of the drought in the state’s west.
“In one respect it’s good because they’re actually getting to see what we see every day, so they are kind of experiencing it,” she said.
“When you’re in the city and you hear ‘oh, the drought’ and ‘the drought’s bad’, you don’t really understand until you see it yourself.”