The Big Dry

In my series of images, “The Big Dry” I have created pictorial depiction that looks at a small piece of the Anthropocene and how it has impacted my local environment, specifically the riparian zone of the Namoi river.

The damming of the Namoi river was first proposed in the 1890’s, a time that coincides with the early industrial revolution; a period recognised as the beginning of the Anthropocene.

In the early days of farming in the Namoi Valley, farmers relied on artesian water to supplement variable river flows. In the 1930s it was recognised that the Artesian water levels were beginning to fall and in 1939 construction of the Keepit Dam began.

Keepit Dam was completed in 1960. Construction was halted during the five years of World War II resulting in a sixteen-year construction period.

The dam wall is 533 metres long and 55 metres high resulting in a 44 square kilometre lake that has a capacity of 425,000 megalitres.

The current drought across regional NSW commenced in mid-2017 and has resulted in the depletion of water levels behind the Keepit Dam. The dam currently holds less than 1% of it its capacity.

Irrigation water being used to water crops in the Namoi Valley

Irrigation water being used to water crops in the Namoi Valley

The extremely low water level currently being held by the Keepit Dam.

The extremely low water level currently being held by the Keepit Dam.

Low levels and the currently unusable recreation facilities that signify the direct link between the lake’s waters and the local population.

Low levels and the currently unusable recreation facilities that signify the direct link between the lake’s waters and the local population.

The expanse of land once covered by the lake and a tree stump that would have originally been submerged following the 1960 completion of the dam.

The expanse of land once covered by the lake and a tree stump that would have originally been submerged following the 1960 completion of the dam.

Human attempt to recover the riparian zone of a river feeding the dam.

Human attempt to recover the riparian zone of a river feeding the dam.

More human intervention as the sun sets over the Namoi Valley.

More human intervention as the sun sets over the Namoi Valley.

The Indigenous Australian population have inhabited the continent for more than 50,000 years. They have developed systems of agriculture and exploitation of the local food sources that are sustainable. A population and lifestyle that evolved alongside the notion of sustainability and drought tolerance. They weren’t reliant on large-scale water storage or broadacre agriculture. There is a lot to be learnt from their harmony with the ecosystems that surrounded them rather than the European notion that ecosystems should be altered for greater productivity.