Flooding in the central and northern parts of Queensland earlier in the month has resulted in large volumes of floodwaters which are now making their way across the Outback towards Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre in South Australia. The majority of the rainfall was located over the northern Lake Eyre basin and as a result floodwaters have not been directed towards the coast and out to sea. Rather, they are taking a long journey across the usually dry Outback and causing flooding in towns which have seen little to no rain recently.
While this may bring relief to some farmers suffering from severe drought, the volume of water has been excessive, resulting in significant damage to infrastructure. Most devastating, however, has been the loss of an estimated 500 000 livestock which drowned, froze in the colder than normal conditions or perished while stuck in deep mud after floodwaters receded. Grazier Matt Bennetto expressed his devastation at having to fly over his and neighbouring properties and count around 10 000 animals dead. “You spend your whole life trying to breed beautiful animals and then you see something like that. It’s beyond heartbreaking.”
Life-giving water for ephemeral Lake Eyre
While floodwaters are leaving disaster in their path, they promise new life for wildlife in the Lake Eyre region, where waterbirds flock to the area during the annual inundation in order to breed in a protected environment where foxes and dingos are unable to reach nests. In years when significant amounts of water enter the system, even freshwater fish are able to survive. Usually they are prevented from doing so because Lake Eyre is a salt lake which requires large quantities of water to dilute salt levels sufficiently to allow for the survival of freshwater organisms. Water enters the system each year, but the amount is very variable. Forecasters remain unsure exactly how full the lake will become when floodwaters reach it in a few weeks time, but expect high lake levels this year.