Yuwaya Ngarra-li Briefing Paper: Walgett’s drinking water

Yuwaya Ngarra-li Briefing Paper: Walgett’s drinking water Report

  • Author(s): Earle, Niall, Spencer, Wendy, McCausland, Ruth, Futeran, Pauline, Webster, Jacqui, Leslie, Greg
  • Published: 2023
  • Publisher: Dharriwaa Elders Group, Comunity-Led Development, UNSW Sydney,

Abstract: Ensuring safe drinking water in Walgett has been a long-term priority for the Dharriwaa Elders Group (DEG) and the Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service (WAMS). Their work has raised awareness of systematic water mismanagement which, exacerbated by both drought and flood, has rendered surface water supplies unreliable and produced high levels of water insecurity for Walgett residents. As a result, Walgett’s long term drinking water security relies on regular and prolonged extraction of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin (GAB). By engaging external experts, DEG and WAMS have been able to provide evidence that consumption of local groundwater containing high concentrations of sodium on an ongoing basis is unhealthy, especially in communities managing chronic conditions such as hypertension and kidney disease. The advocacy of the DEG and WAMS since 2018, including around the installation of a Reverse Osmosis (RO) facility to reduce the concentration of sodium, has been directed at finding a long-term supply of safe drinking water for all residents of Walgett and the nearby Namoi and Gingie villages. However, Walgett continues to experience water insecurity and quality issues and associated health risks. This Briefing Paper documents a timeline of events in Walgett’s recent history of drinking water management. It sets out the context in which drinking water is accessed, the associated risks, and the story of community advocacy pivotal to change. Its purpose is to inform efforts to improve water security and quality for residents in Walgett and the nearby Namoi and Gingie Villages, including the following urgent actions called for by DEG and WAMS1: • Desalination solutions for towns relying on groundwater and evaporating rivers • Potable water supplied to Aboriginal communities • Fluoridation of potable water supplies • Accessible safe public drinking water sources • Australian Drinking Water Guidelines that include a health guideline for sodium rather than just referring to ‘palatability’ • Drinking water community education campaigns conducted by Aboriginal community controlled organisations (ACCOs) supported by quality community education resources. • Wastewater recycling and other water efficiency measures and infrastructure for remote Aboriginal communities • Greater engineering capacity in Walgett and regional and remote communities to enable the functioning of critical community water infrastructure Declaration of a climate emergency and requirements made of local governments for Climate Resilience Plans which incorporate measures for managing vital community water infrastructure during increasing natural disasters and water scarcity • Sustainable management of surface and groundwaters to ensure the health and wellbeing of all species While the timeline set out in this Briefing Paper begins in earnest with the rivers running dry in 2018, the story of mismanagement starts long before. Much of the articulation around the water crisis and associated issues can be found in DEG’s published statements and submissions.

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Suggested Citation
Earle, Niall, Spencer, Wendy, McCausland, Ruth, Futeran, Pauline, Webster, Jacqui, Leslie, Greg, 2023, Yuwaya Ngarra-li Briefing Paper: Walgett’s drinking water, Report, viewed 13 July 2024, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=42512.

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