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Record August rain for some regions of NSW and Queensland, but it won't break the drought

ABC Rural reporters, Tuesday August 19, 2014 - 09:57 EST
Audience submitted image
A child plays in the rain near drought-ravaged Windorah, south-west of Longreach in outback Queensland. - Audience submitted

The Bureau of Meteorology says good weekend rainfall will barely make a dint in drought-affected areas of Queensland and New South Wales.

In western Queensland, Charleville and Cunnamulla set daily August rainfall records with falls of more than 50 millimetres in the 24 hours to Saturday morning.

In New South Wales, some dry areas only had patchy falls, but the Illawarra recorded between 100 and 190 millimetres in places.

On the other side of the country, a seperate rain event brought 10 to 20 millimetres to dry areas of south west Western Australia.

Climatologist Blair Trewin says despite the rain in south-east Queensland and north-west New South Wales, rainfall deficiencies are likely to remain unchanged.

"Even with the rain we had in this event, which was typically 50 to 100 near the coast and 25 to 50 further inland, that still only brings them up to about normal for the month of August, and of course that's on top of a lot of very dry months before that, so it's only had a pretty marginal impact on deficiencies," Dr Trewin said.

"And the same is true in more inland regions where deficiencies are longer term.

"The area that did relatively best, that Charleville, Cunnamulla area, they actually did better than a lot of areas did last wet season as well, so the most extreme rainfall deficiencies are actually a little bit further east from there and those areas further east didn't do quite as well out of this system.

"It's looking like, unless there's follow-up (rain), the rainfall deficiencies will remain basically unchanged, except for a few changes right on the margins."

Dr Trewin says once the tail end of the system clears out this week, there's no indication of more significant rain for the next seven to 10 days.

"The seasonal outlook for the next three months, over most of that region, does lean dryish, but not spectacularly so," he said.

"We're generally looking at around 55 to 60 per cent of below normal ... so not a brilliant outlook, but not disastrous either."

Farmers frustrated with incorrect weather bureau predictions

Weekend rain in parts of the drought-affected north-west of New South Wales fell short of the bureau's predictions.

Farm Consultant Bob Freebairn has clients in NSW and Queensland and he says many are a bit disappointed.

"The rain in NSW and Queensland was less than the forecast. Farmers are feeling a bit frustrated. I think that those that are finding it most disappointing are the black soil farmers in north west NSW.

"It is not the drought breaking rains that people need. Not even close.

"This rain is not enough to change things. North west NSW and Queensland farmers need a huge rain to break the drought. All the big cattle areas in Queensland have not had a break," Mr Freebairn said.

Up to 50 millimetres of widespread rain was forecast, but instead it was patchy, with one farmer reporting only 14 millimetres in the rain gauge.

Cameron Ritten, who farms between Collarenebri and Lightning Ridge, says the bureau should be more conservative in its predictions.

"You'd imagine they'd say 'right, well, we'll start at the bottom end and anything above that is good luck to you'," Mr Ritten said.

"We haven't had any rain to speak of in the last 18 months and every time they seem to say it's going to rain we don't get a drop.

"They just seem to get it so wrong all the time."

Mr Ritten says that his farm received far less rain than what was predicted, but more rain fell south of Walgett.

"We got 14 millimetres on one end of the property and 17 millimetres at the southern end of the property.

"We were led to believe that we were going to get 30-50 millimetres.

"I've heard up to 37 millimetres in Collarenebri, 20 millimetres, 25 millimetres to the north and the south of us and up to 30 millimetres south of Walgett.

Walgett Shire hasn't received significant rain for over two years and there hasn't been farming income from cropping in the district since the end of 2012.

The drought-stricken farmers says the rain will help for a very short amount of time, but the drought has gone on for so long that this rain doesn't come close to breaking it.

"Any herbages and feed that we've got that has a little green in it, and I mean a little, will keep that alive for a little while, but not a huge amount, it'll be here today and gone tomorrow," Mr Ritten said.

"There's no farming here whatsoever this year. It's far too dry. There wasn't any last year. The stock numbers, we're right down, right back to the bare boards here, just keeping our core breeding stock."

Meanwhile, further south, there's happier news.

Weekend rainfall hit the spot in the central west of NSW, with Nyngan receiving 57 millimetres, Condobolin and Bathurst received 24 millimetres and 27 millimetres in Tottenham.

Canowindra grain grower Wayne McKay received 21 millimetres.

He says while more was forecast, it's a moderately good start.

"It'll mean that the crops certainly will have a good breather before we need another fall.

"We were really looking for about 50 millimetres to get a good start to spring.

"At times, the weather forecast were suggesting that might be available across NSW and Queensland, but I don't think that everyone has been that lucky."

In the August NSW Department of Primary Industries seasonal update, July rainfall was below average.

The rain on the NSW south coast has forced the halting of harvesting of oysters in several estuaries, including the Clyde River and at Merimbula.

Trigger levels vary in the different waterways, with rain washing nutrients into the water depending on the number of creeks and rivers entering the estuaries.

Merimbula Lake, being ocean-fed, is expected to reopen quite soon.

With the rain forecast several days in advance, oyster farmers were able to harvest, ensuring a supply to outlets.

The dry conditions this year have meant there have been few stoppages.

Mixed results for farmers in far west New South Wales and South Australia

Rainfall has been incredibly patchy in the far west of New South Wales and South Australia.

Some stations have missed out but for others, it's turned around the season.

Charlie Townsing from Cawkers Well near Wilcannia, 160 kilometres from Broken Hill, had some really good rainfall.

"We had 75 millimetres or three inches in the old language." he said.

"This has turned us right around, it's wonderful rain".

Rainfall in the north of the state continued to make its way south, but it seems like the Riverland was the limit for any decent showers.

While most people received around 9-10 millimetres there are reports of up to 21 millimetres falling around the region.

Loxton north farmer Tom Fielke recorded just on 16 millimetres.

"It's been very, very good.

"We've had about 75 millimetres since February, so it was a good start to the season, but not much since then, so this is very nice."

Peter Litchfield from Mundowdna Station, about 25 kilometres east of Marree, says 21 millimetres of rain has fallen over two days.

"We had a heavy little storm that fell in a narrow band, covering about 20 per cent of our property," he said.

"We're going a long average here, not too bad, but you don't have to go much further north than us and everybody missed out (on the rain).

"We're in the driest part of the driest state. We're used to it not raining much here, but we'd like some follow up rains before Christmas." he said.

It's a very different story in the lower north where many farmers say it's one of the wettest seasons they've ever seen, and over the past two weeks they've also had some severe frosts.

But Patrick Neale from Ngapala says his crops are looking good.

"It's been great. We've had over our average rainfall for the year already.

"It's been really wet, but we'll take it. We've had about 460 millimetres for the year so far, average is 450 millimetres." he said.


© ABC 2014

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