History repeats itself as outback town’s water supply slowly disappears
Innamincka is a tiny town in far north-east South Australia, a 23-hour drive from Adelaide.
It is so isolated that in 1860, explorers Robert Burke and William Wills were the first to visit the place that would become known as Innamincka and the nearby Cooper Creek, while trying a journey from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
It is also the site of the famous Dig Tree, where William Brahe left supplies for Burke and Wills after waiting four months for their return from the Gulf.
The two explorers returned to Cooper Creek only hours after Brahe had decided to leave and after leaving the tree, both men lost their camels and were unable to carry enough water to cross the Strzelecki Desert, thereby isolating them to Cooper Creek.
Eventually in 1861, the two explorers died, dehydrated and exhausted, in the middle of the desert.
History repeating itself
More than 150 years after the Burke and Wills expedition failed, Innamincka is again facing serious concerns about supplies — specifically, water.
The town has been collecting water from Policeman’s Waterhole, two kilometres away, and transporting it via a water truck paid for by residents.
Now, the waterhole is running dry and there is a chance of blue-green algae developing.
Ali Matthews, one of only 13 people who call Innamincka home, said the town was in dire need of a more stable water supply.
“We don’t want to run that waterhole so low that there is a possibility of [algae developing],” she said.
“Once that happens, and it gets into our pumps and water tanks, it’s basically contaminated.
“I’ve got a young family and I don’t want those issues that could potentially be health issues in the future.”
Bore water the only solution
Ms Matthews said a new bore water source would be the best option for the town.
“There is a bore under review, for some time, and it would be a lot better to have that as a backup because we shouldn’t be always relying on the creek water,” she said.
Ms Matthews said the Outback Communities Authority (OCA) had been silent on helping them so far.
Members of the Innamincka Progress Association are finalising letters they will be sending to the OCA.
“Hopefully all this will bring us together and, hopefully, get a great outcome,” Ms Matthews said.
OCA already listening
Chair of the OCA Cecilia Woolford said there were already a number of projects in the pipeline to deliver water to Innamincka, including a new source called Lisbeth Bore.
“This could be used normally as the last resort backup, however it is owned by the Innamincka Progress Association and it is able to be used,” she said.
Ms Woolford said the “unmetered usage” of water by some residences and businesses in the town had led to the situation the town now found itself in.
The OCA will hold a community consultation session at Innamincka in February to try and find a more permanent solution to the town’s water supply.