Drought: A challenge to every Australian

Border Morning Mail. 10 October 1944, 2.

Transcript: We spill out our wealth and sacrifice young lives to win a war and are joyous over the victory but we baulk at the idea of spending money in peace time on vast development schemes such as water conservation and irrigation that would in the long run help to make us more secure against possible enemies. Were we to spend in the post war century half of our national income on sensible internal security, posterity would acclaim us as a discerning race. We claim to be good Australians, but how can we be when we will man the forts at our coastal ports but suffer a drought behind us?



By the mid-1940s the optimistic tone of earlier Border Mail reports had shifted, the Albury district was no longer invulnerable to drought. It was clear that within the ten years since the Hume Dam had been constructed it was beginning to exhibit signs of siltation as deforestation in the hills around the lake caused a build-up of clay sediments. As the headline of this article proclaims, drought was now “a challenge to every Australian.”

The sense of crisis caused by the drought was heightened by the ongoing war, which by 1944, was placing increased pressure on farmers and graziers to feed the war effort. This challenged the Riverina’s identity as the ‘food-bowl of Australia’ and sparked renewed calls for water conservation once the war had ended. This Border Mail article put it plainly; “we claim to be good Australians but how can we be when we will man the forts at our coastal ports but suffer a drought behind us?” Water conservation and irrigation, the Mail argued, would provide the best long-term assurance of Australian security. It was recommended that water storage and irrigation capacity along the Murray, Murrumbidgee and Goulburn rivers be increased. Indeed, throughout the post-war decade the Hume dam capacity was doubled at the same time as the Snowy Hydro Scheme was under construction in New South Wales.

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