In January this year, torrential rain in Northern Queensland caused the death of around 500,000 cattle worth over AU$300 million. By March, the very floods that had devastated the cattle industry reached Kati Thanda (Lake Eyre) in central South Australia invigorating the lives of the 60,000 people and all the wildlife that depends on this pristine and fragile desert river system to survive.
During the 2001 flood, photographer and designer, Hari Ho, was part of a team of artists and writers who traveled to Kati Thanda to record the floods trans-formative effect.
“It was the first time I was in the central Australian desert, and what an amazing experience. I think the Kati Thanda area has flooded once or twice since then, but the floods happening now seem massive.”
At 15 metres below sea-level, Kati Thanda is the lowest point on the Australian continent and forms the southern most part of the Great Artesian Basin, which provides the only source of fresh water to much of inland Australia. The lake is usually a dry salt flat and was made internationally famous back in 1964 when Donald Campbell set a new land speed record (648kms/hour) there in Bluebird II.
Kati Thanda is part of the native title land of the Arabana people. It was given the name, Lake Eyre, in 1840 after it was ‘discovered’ by explorer and British colonial official, Edward John Eyre.
Typically Kati Thanda fills to a depth of about 1.5 meters every three years. Once in a decade, the lake may rise to around 4 meters, but it only ever fills, or near fills, a few times a century. This year’s flood is the biggest for 45 years.
Water management is one of the biggest dissonant issues of today and the seasonal flooding of Kati Thanda brings into sharp focus just how much the needs of the economy and the needs of the environment clash in the way water is perceived and used. In January, a million fish died in the Darling river at Menindee. The water was so low that there wasn’t enough oxygen. They drowned. According to a group of river ecology experts, this happened for a number of reasons: poor management by the water authority; theft of water by ranchers, cotton farmers and miners; political corruption that has allowed industry to dictate its needs over those of the common good.
It’s a particularly hot topic for Australians, and has become a key issue in the upcoming election. It also raises a fundamental question we all have to face about how we value and manage fresh water as a planetary resource. Is water just another financial resource to be dispensed to those who can afford it, or is the right of all living beings to have an equitable share in this most precious of resources?
A few sites definitely worth checking out:
The Vanishing River – Voices from the Darling: https://www.thevanishingriver.com.au
Drought, climate change and mismanagement
THANK YOU Hari for sharing your photos and inspiring this blog. To learn a bit more about Hari, check out these links:
And a small water blessing from greenspiracy before you go…