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Drought-stricken western NSW receives best rainfall in years

Tim Fookes, Monday November 4, 2019 - 16:48 EDT
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Areas of regional NSW received as much as 100 millimetres of rain over the weekend. - ABC

Some areas of inland NSW received their biggest rainfall in years, but farmers warn it is far from drought-breaking.

The widespread rain over the weekend has brought hope to regional communities and sent water flowing down streams and into dams that had dried up.

Figures from the Bureau of Meteorology showed Bourke, in the state's north-west, received 94mm over two days, making it the biggest single rainfall event in the area since 2012.

"It's amazing to see a very wet environment after a very dry environment," Bourke resident Ian Cole said.

"When you live through drought you think it's never going to rain, but here it is.

"It's been beautiful!"

The Darling River in Bourke has risen as much as 1.7 metres due to the rain, while water is flowing over the Bourke Weir for the first time in 483 days.

Widespread falls

The rain has been a welcome sight for many farming communities battling through drought conditions.

In western NSW the communities of Cobar and Nyngan received 42 millimetres, while Brewarrina in the north-west received 51mm.

Farmers across much of inland NSW have recorded falls in their rain gauges of up to 100mm over a two-day period

In the Riverina, Wagga Wagga received 55mm and Griffith 40mm

In the drought-stricken Upper Hunter, Muswellbrook received 27mm, Scone 23mm while nearby farmers were lucky to receive more.

"It was nice, steady rain that lasted for hours. A nice drop to get at this time of year," Merriwa farmer Ken Fenley said.

"If we don't get warm and windy days in the coming week, we might get a bit of pasture growth out of it too."

Upper Hunter farmer Ron Campbell received 23mm on his property and said it will put valuable moisture in the ground.

"Mother nature smiled and gave us some rain at last.

"The ground has absorbed all of the rain, so it won't allow us to put in any forage crops, but it's certainly welcome anyway."

Rain brings hope

In the state's central west, many areas received double-figure rainfall.

Orange and Young recorded 18mm, Bathurst 14mm, Dubbo 13mm and Mudgee 14mm.

Less than 10mm was recorded at Parkes and Forbes.

In areas that have become more used to dust storms than rain, the wet was welcomed with open arms.

Armitree publican Ash Walker said the community received 42mm of rain.

"It's good to see a general rainfall come through and give us a drink though it's been quite patchy."

"It's taken our rainfall for the year to almost 200mm, but you don't need to go far from here to speak to farmers who have less than half that amount."

"What's important now is what happens next, and we have our fingers crossed we'll get more rain soon."

The rainfall was hit-and-miss, with drought-affected areas of the northern inland barely receiving a drop while rainfall was patchy in south-east NSW and in southern regions.

Leading up to the weekend, Culcairn farmer Scott Mitchell had been looking at forecasts showing as much as 60mm could fall at his property.

"In the end, we got just seven millimetres — which is tough to take," Mr Mitchell said.

"We depend on the weather forecasts a lot in terms of when we put crops in and get hay baled.

"Not getting what is forecast can be quite depressing given, for farmers, rain is gold."

In the state's south-east, farmers around Bega received as much as 35mm of rain.

Outlook for dry summer

The long-range forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology .

Despite the forecast, Principal of RaynerAg Alistair Rayner said the rain that has fallen allows producers to replenish stock water levels heading into summer.

"A lot of western and central west NSW have struggled with stock water so the rain has meant water going back into dams," he said.

"While it mightn't be a huge game changer in terms of producers' livestock feeding programs, it means they now have time to make decisions.

"This rain needs to soak into the ground before we see what kind of growth we get out of it, and that'll take several weeks."

Mr Rayner said parts of the New England missed out on significant falls where dam levels have dried up.

"We now have to keep our fingers crossed to see if we get more of these weather systems coming across in the weeks ahead," he said.


© ABC 2019

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