The Ord River Irrigation Scheme
The Kimberley region is in the Northwest of Australia. The Ord River flows through this area and then this precious resource used to spill out to the ocean. A project to irrigate the surrounding lands from the Ord River was instigated in 1959 with a grant from the Commonwealth Government. A dam to harness this resource was the construction of the Kununurra Diversion Dam across the Ord River. This was completed in 1963. In 1967 the Commonwealth Government provided a grant for the construction of the Ord River Dam to provide a major storage reservoir, called Lake Argyle. Lake Argyle is one of the world’s largest man made water bodies and was formed by an earth and rock filled dam in the Carr Boyd Ranges.
The Ord river dam was completed in 1972. The Dam became the largest capacity dam in Australia. In 1990 it was decided to build a hydraulic power station at the base of the main Ord Dam. The engineers built a weir across the spillway and raised the storage by six meters. This almost doubled the volume and thus increased the capacity to 21 Sydney Harbours.
In 2009 the State and Federal Government gave funding for the expansion of the farming area.
Due to the Ord river irrigation scheme the eastern Kimberley has been converted from a desert to rich farming land. The temperature is fairly constant most of the year and because of this many tropical fruits can be grown for up to 75% of the year. It is strange to see fruit for sale in our shops that previously was not available during the winter months.
Quentin Parker packs most of the mangoes for the growers in the Kimberley and this year has only two girls helping him instead of the usual 20 to 25 staff. This is because there is so little fruit on the trees.The mango crop is down about 90%. In 2011 he packed 123,000 trays; last year it was 54,000. This year he would be lucky to pack 10,000.
What is happening? Nobody knows but Quentin says, “there are other crops that aren’t doing well either”.
Last year I was buying trays of strawberries (3.7 kilos -8.14 lbs.) for $10.00. After they were hulled and washed (don’t dry them) I added a couple of tablespoons of water and cooked on low heat. As soon as they bubbled up I took them off the cook top and let them stand with the saucepan lid on. For sweetness I added a couple of tablespoons of “Splenda”. All you have to do then is cool, put into containers and freeze. They are yummy with yogurt or ice-cream. This year they are not so plentiful or cheap.
The people in the Kimberley are hoping that the reason for the shortage is rain and because of this they are praying for a good wet season which usually results in a bumper crop for the next season.
From the Kimberley, right across northern Australia, through Darwin and into Townsville is the natural habitat of the Burkholderia pseudomellai which causes a disease called Melioidosis. This bacterium is prominent in wet area where grasses have been introduced. The air also carries the bacteria and is dispersed by high winds and heavy rains. One theory is that cyclones disturb the soil and this can partly explain Darwin’s increase in Melioidosis cases. The US lists this microbe as a potential biological weapon along with Anthrax or Ebola.
The Menzies School for Health Research cultures bacteria from hundreds of soil, water and air samples. The aim is to pinpoint the Melioidosis hotspots and find explanations for the surge in infections.
There could be health implications for development in the north with the expansion of suburbs, mining and agriculture, such as the Orb irrigation scheme.
Australia Scorching – America Freezing
In the past few weeks many parts of Australia have had the mercury rise up to around 50° Celsius (122° Fahrenheit). Phil Turner and his wife Maz run the town’s pub at Oodnadatta (see map). The temperature the day before was 47° and at 9:30 pm it has only dropped to 44°. The locals congregate at the pub to keep cool and sane. The air-conditioned pub is a cool temperature of 23°.
To keep hydrated you must drink a minimum of 4 litres of water per day and that is not “beer”. With these temperatures travellers are stranded. Phil said, “We had a chap in here two days ago and he’d blown four tyres on his vehicle driving around in these temperatures”. Phil further said, “If it is 49° in the shade, we’re talking 77°,78°,80° (170/172/190 Fahrenheit) out in the sun which is, I mean, you’re running rubber on it; tyres just can’t cope with that sort of condition”.
Birdsville is another place that you can fry eggs on the footpath. The fruit bats (mainly babies) have recently fallen out of the sky and are “dead” on the earth. This also happens to the birds.
What a contrast to the “Polar Vortex” (Arctic Cyclone) across Canada and America. The temperature is 50° above in Australia and 50° below in Canada/North America.