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Harrowing images of a dried up river show the reality of New South Wales drought

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Harrowing images of a dried-up river scattered with dead mussels have uncovered the glaring reality of drought-stricken communities across the country. 

Farmer Johnnie McKeown was photographed walking through the bed of the Namoi River, on the outskirts of his property, near Walgett in northern New South Wales on October 6.

The river is part of the Murray–Darling Basin but has run dry amid brutal drought conditions and a steady decline in water resources.

Farmer Johnnie McKeown was snapped walking through the bed of the Namoi River on the outskirts of his property

Farmer Johnnie McKeown was snapped walking through the bed of the Namoi River on the outskirts of his property

The river, near Walgett in northern New South Wales, is part of the Murray¿Darling basin but runs dry

The river, near Walgett in northern New South Wales, is part of the Murray–Darling basin but runs dry

Nearby, the Barwon River was photographed carrying a limited supply of water

Nearby, the Barwon River was photographed carrying a limited supply of water

Dressed in a hi-vis long sleeve top and shorts, Mr McKeown donned a protective bucket hat to seek shelter from the sun while navigating the dried-up river base.  

Pictures show the skeleton of a native crayfish lying on the cracked floor, while dead mussels are sprawled along the base. 

Nearby, the Barwon River was photographed carrying a limited supply of water. Dead trees are also seen lining its banks. 

Walgett Shire Council is currently enforcing level 3 water restrictions as they battle the drought. The northern NSW town faced further struggles in June, when their only supermarket was gutted by fire.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology’s September update for the Murray–Darling Basin, rainfall was lower than average across 83 per cent of the area. 

‘Due to the continuing dry catchment conditions, streamflows were very much below average including lowest on record since 1980 for 49 per cent of the sites, predominantly located in the north of the Basin,’ the Bureau said.   

Dead mussels are seen scattered across the base of the river amid drought conditions

Dead mussels are seen scattered across the base of the river amid drought conditions

Dead trees line the banks of the the Barwon River, near Walgett in northern New South Wales

Dead trees line the banks of the the Barwon River, near Walgett in northern New South Wales

The volume of water stored across the Basin at the end of September was 36 per cent of the total accessible capacity. This is a 16 per cent decrease from the year preceding. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was in Tamworth on Sunday with Premier Gladys Berejiklian to announce a $1 billion investment in dams and water infrastructure projects around New South Wales. 

The 50/50 investment includes a $480 million new Dungowan Dam near Tamworth, along with a a $650 million upgrade of Wyangala Dam in the NSW Central West.

‘I love working with premiers that want to build dams,’ Mr Morrison said.

‘And not just say they want to do it but are actually going to do it and roll-up their sleeves and ensure that we can get these built.’

Such infrastructure will aid regional and rural communities build drought resistance into the future.

The remains of a small native crayfish lies in the dried-up bed of the Namoi River

The remains of a small native crayfish lies in the dried-up bed of the Namoi River

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Mr McKeown stands on the dried and cracked bed of the Namoi River, uncovering the grim reality of the drought

Mr McKeown stands on the dried and cracked bed of the Namoi River, uncovering the grim reality of the drought

The joint venture will also help free-up NSW funding to allow progress for critical town water projects across the state.

‘We want to get these projects underway because this is about water supply and security,’ Mr Morrison said.

‘These projects don’t happen overnight but we’re working as quickly as possible to get all the necessary work done so we can start digging.’

Ms Berejiklian estimated the new dam will take about four years to build.

Dressed in a hi-vis long sleeve top and shorts, Mr McKeown donned a protective bucket hat to seek shelter from the sun while navigating the dried-up river base

Dressed in a hi-vis long sleeve top and shorts, Mr McKeown donned a protective bucket hat to seek shelter from the sun while navigating the dried-up river base

According to the Bureau of Meteorology's September update for the Murray¿Darling Basin, rainfall was lower than average across 83 per cent of the area. Pictured: Dead trees at Namoi River

According to the Bureau of Meteorology’s September update for the Murray–Darling Basin, rainfall was lower than average across 83 per cent of the area. Pictured: Dead trees at Namoi River

There will also be an initial $24 million 50/50 investment for the proposed 100,000-megalitre Border Rivers project on the Mole River, near the Queensland border.

Ms Berejiklan described the announcements as ‘historic’ given the last dam built in NSW was in 1987.

But Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese was unimpressed by such promises after six years of federal coalition governments.

‘Tony Abbott’s come and gone, Malcolm Turnbull’s come and gone, Barnaby Joyce’s come and gone, Scott Morrison’s there, they haven’t dug a hole yet,’ Mr Albanese told reporters in Sydney.

'Due to the continuing dry catchment conditions, streamflows were very much below average including lowest on record since 1980 for 49 per cent of the sites, predominantly located in the north of the Basin,' the Bureau said

‘Due to the continuing dry catchment conditions, streamflows were very much below average including lowest on record since 1980 for 49 per cent of the sites, predominantly located in the north of the Basin,’ the Bureau said

Shells of dead mussels lie at the dried-up bed of the Namoi River on October 6

Shells of dead mussels lie at the dried-up bed of the Namoi River on October 6 

‘Well wait and see what happens. What I do know is that this government has no national drought strategy.’

The Nature Conservation Council also warned the NSW government to retain thorough assessment of water infrastructure projects to avoid ecological catastrophes, like the mass fish kills earlier this year.

‘We need thorough assessment of water infrastructure projects now more than ever to ensure we don’t make matters worse,’ the council’s chief executive Chris Gambian said in a statement.

‘The problems we are facing today are a direct result of this government refusing to listen to its own planning experts, who warned of this looming water crisis six years ago.’

The volume of water stored across the Basin at the end of September was 36 per cent of the total accessible capacity. This is a 16 per cent decrease from the year preceding. Pictured: Barwon River

The volume of water stored across the Basin at the end of September was 36 per cent of the total accessible capacity. This is a 16 per cent decrease from the year preceding. Pictured: Barwon River

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was in Tamworth on Sunday with Premier Gladys Berejiklian to announce a $1 billion investment in dams and water infrastructure projects around New South Wales

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was in Tamworth on Sunday with Premier Gladys Berejiklian to announce a $1 billion investment in dams and water infrastructure projects around New South Wales

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