All sources of water must be protected now

For the first time since my family began farming on this property in the 1950s, we did not receive enough rain last year to sow winter crops.

I am a third generation farmer and throughout my family's farming history, there has always been good times and bad times on the land. Unless we receive good rain soon, we face the very real prospect of having no winter crops for the second successive year.

We consider ourselves lucky though as, despite reduced yields, we did get summer crops. Some farmers have missed both summer and winter crops for the past couple of years.

Sydney will face water restrictions for the first time in a decade. The drought that has plagued farmers and rural communities is starting to be felt in metropolitan areas. There's no doubt Australia has always faced drought, but we are now facing a world in which continuous and relentless drought becomes the "new norm."

There is wide scientific consensus on climate change with 97 per cent of actively published climate scientists agreeing that global warming is occurring.

Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth. More than 22 per cent of the continent ultimately relies on one source of groundwater, the Great Artesian Basin (GAB). As surface water sources have dried up, many towns, industries and farmers are now solely dependent on the GAB.

In north-west NSW, a proposed coal seam gas (CSG) extraction project threatens the GAB, risking contamination and depressurisation. Santos, the company involved in the project has stated that depressurisation of groundwater head will have a significant impact on local groundwater resources. Depressurisation means many towns, industries and farmers will not be able to access their sole source of water.

In addition to the damage that CSG causes to groundwater, its use as a fossil fuel contributes to global warming. Farmers and many others now bear the direct cost of climate change as rising temperatures, the increasing severity and frequency of droughts is resulting in drastically reduced food production. Reduced food production will mean higher costs of food items to consumers.

The contamination and depletion of groundwater for the purpose of sourcing fuels that contribute to global warming is unsustainable and counterproductive.

It is imperative that people speak up and demand that politicians act now to protect all sources of water.

Robyn King is a grain farmer from north west NSW