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Has there been enough rain to end the drought?

Caitlyn Gribbin and Kate Doyle, Wednesday February 12, 2020 - 08:55 EDT
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Things are looking better at Dirranbandi, but they are not out of the woods yet. - ABC

Large areas of drought and bushfire-ravaged regions are covered in green grass for the first time in years, with one farmer declaring "the drought is starting to break".

The significant weather system that brought has led to euphoria for some and disappointment for others who have missed out again.



Angus cattle breeder Sam White, who lives at Guyra, 500 kilometres north-west of Sydney, said he has "smiles from ear to ear" about receiving more than 300mm of rain this year.

"An absolute relief. It is massive, significant, and absolutely greatly received," Mr White said.

It means he will start rebuilding his cattle herd and growing crops and he is confident enough to make a big prediction.

"For me, in this particular area, I think the drought is starting to break. The benefit and the impact is significant."

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However, Mr White is quick to acknowledge not everyone has been as lucky.

"It's important to accept areas just outside of here are still not getting significant rain. There are still many of my colleagues in drought and I absolutely feel for them," he said.

Is the drought actually breaking?

So, is the drought on its way to breaking in some areas of Australia?


Blair Trewin, a climatologist at the Bureau of Meteorology, said that "depends very much on where you are".

"On the one hand we've seen very heavy rain across a large part of the east coast. Right down the NSW coast we've seen widespread falls over a few days of more than 200mm," he said.

"In that coastal region we've seen a very dramatic improvement of the situation, but once we go significantly west of the Divide the rain's been much more patchy."

Mr Trewin said sustained rainfall is still needed.

"We're not seeing the widespread, above-average falls in the inland that we've seen on the coast," he said.

"Some particular places are tracking above-average for January, February, but it's not consistent in the way it is in the coastal areas."



Green soothes the soul

Although drought still firmly has a grip over her property, Wendy Henning said life had changed significantly in recent days.

On her farm outside of Glenmorgan, nearly five hours west of Brisbane, dust has turned into mud and there is now grass for livestock to eat.



"I can't describe how much it lifts the morale to see green starting to poke through," Ms Henning said.

"I always say green soothes the soul, it is just the most amazing colour."





"We are nearly beside ourselves, it's a surreal feeling. Today we're just a bit dazed thinking, 'oh my goodness, after all those months it has finally rained'."

Up to 80mm has fallen at the cattle and grain property, but Ms Henning said much more is needed in Queensland.

"The drought's definitely not broken, the pressure has been relieved and we now have options," she said.

"A week ago we had no options. We were running out of plan A, plan B and were down to plan Z."

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That is something publican Tom Hancock is acutely aware of.

His pub in the tiny town of Collie, north-west of Dubbo, is a meeting place for local farmers who have been supporting each other through the big dry.

"Definitely not everyone's getting the same amount, unfortunately," Mr Hancock said.

"For some people obviously it's hard, especially when they do come into the pub like this and listen to a neighbour or someone down the road and hear when they've got a big downpour but they haven't got as much.

"It makes some people upset."

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Dams filling up some places … but not all

The rain has , but some of the most desperate towns are still in trouble.

In drought-affected southern Queensland, residents in the town of .

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The recent falls have not significantly improved water levels at Stanthorpe's Storm King Dam, however Warwick's storages have been significantly boosted.



It is estimated Leslie Dam now has water until August 2022 and Connolly Dam until August 2021.

However, emergency water restrictions of 80 litres per person, per day remain in place.

In NSW, the big irrigation storages of Hume, Wyangala and Blowering and Burrinjuck have largely missed out on any big inflows.

Tony Webber from Water NSW said although there was extensive rainfall, "almost nothing made it into the dams".

"With the exception being Keepit, but even then that dam is only now up to 3 per cent, although that is a big storage," Mr Webber said.

"Given the fact that Keepit has been functionally dry for 14 months, that is welcome water.

"The Burrendong Dam, a major water source for towns such as Wellington and Dubbo and servicing about 70,000 people, also missed out and is only still sitting at 1 per cent," Mr Webber said.

There has, however, been some good news for Walgett, Brewarrina, and Bourke, with good flows into the Barwon Darling and Namoi rivers.

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- ABC

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