action-story | 5th May, 2006

Kirsty O’Brien: The wellbeing role of the Wimmera River

Nursing student Kirsty O’Brien often studies on the banks of the Wimmera River at Horsham. Kirsty knows she is not alone in valuing this natural asset. All around her she sees the important role the Wimmera River plays in boosting community spirit and the wellbeing of local townships.

ActionStory_Kirsty_Obrien_top (1)She has never seen the Wimmera River in such a bad state, but Kirsty holds out hope for rain to fix the health of the river and return it to its once-glorious healthy condition. She also hopes environmental flows will be returned to the river to help improve water quality.

In a dry agricultural landscape like the Wimmera, it is very clear that maintaining healthy river systems is dependant on wise water use. Having been raised in Ararat on a farm with horses, sheep and cows, Kirsty has always understood the importance of conserving water.

“I’ve grown up with it being dry on the farm, you can’t worry about the garden or the grass when you have got animals to look after and there is hardly any water in the dams and you aren’t connected to town water,” says Kirsty.

“I remember when I was little the lake overflowed and we use to have massive puddles on the driveway after it rained. But now there is nothing. The lake is dry, and we haven’t had a good rain for some time.”

Kirsty moved from the farm to the City of Horsham nine months ago, where she lives with her grandparents while studying nursing at Ballarat University’s Horsham campus. Conserving every drop of water continues to be a normal part of her life.

“We are all taking really short showers and recycling heaps of water as my grandparents have got the laundry water connected for the backyard and garden. Even at the hospitals now they are using a spray instead of tap water to clean hands to try and save water.”

Kirsty has seen a resilience among Horsham residents who are taking on the challenge of recycling more water and reducing water use. However Kirsty is concerned that Melbourne residents don’t realise how serious water restrictions are in the bush or how fortunate they are in Melbourne to be watering their gardens.

”People here are doing really well, they are trying to save every drop. We have been on restrictions for some time so I think most people are used to it,” she notes.

“(As a community) everyone is doing their bit to save water, we have to. But unless it rains – like a really good downpour or it floods – I don’t see the river getting better.”

Kirsty would like the Victorian Government to do more to improve the health of the Wimmera River by delivering much-needed environmental flows.

“It doesn’t seem as though the Government has done enough, they should maintain healthy environmental flows so our rivers are cleaned out and not dying.”

by Adam Olive, December 2006