Bushfires threaten water supplies

The Australian bushfires have already taken a heavy toll on people's lives, destroying homes and businesses and killing several people.

But reports from the country now suggest that it will have a more far-reaching consequence for the environment, as efforts to fight the fires could have decimated water supplies in the state of Victoria.

The dams supplying Melbourne’s drinking water are currently estimated to be less than a third full and experts have warned that the future regrowth of trees and other plants in fire-ravaged areas could mean less water than normal reaches these dams.

Speaking on ABC Radio in Australia, Kevin Love from the Department of Sustainability and Environment, said: “With those very intense fires that we had…it kills the crouch of the trees.

“At that point the mountain ash die, and they regrow from seed rather than sprout from the sides, and in those circumstances one of the issues in the future is how much water those regrowing trees drink.”

Melbourne Water, the firm which supplies drinking water to the Victorian city, said it was transferring water to safe reservoirs and residents would not see any impact on water quality as a result of the bushfires.

In a statement released on February 17, the company said: “We continue to transfer water away from reservoirs in the bushfire areas as a precaution.

“This will provide Melbourne with plenty of water reserves while we manage any short term impacts on reservoirs. We have an intensive monitoring programme in place to ensure water quality is maintained.”

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Victoria Premier John Brumby have promised financial support for businesses and residents, and announced that a National Day of Mourning will be held on February 22.

Mr Brumby said: “So many lives have been lost, so many people injured, houses and possessions wrecked and whole communities virtually destroyed because of these devastating fires.

“We will reflect on the devastation of the bushfires and steel our collective resolve to emerge from this terrible tragedy with stronger communities.”

Kate Martin

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