Drought Conditions on Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe Island is suffering from drought. Rainfall in 2018 was 500mm (20 inches) below the longterm average.

The Island has been hit hard this summer. In December we had only 8mm of rain, compared to the long-term average of 100mm, and 117mm in the previous December. There has been no rain at all so far in January and there is no sign of rain in coming weeks.

The Island does not have mains water. Thornleigh Farm, like many others, relies on rainwater. We have a significant investment in catchment, storage and drip irrigation facilitiesto collect and conserve water. Our water reserves have lasted all through December, but with no sign of an end to the drought we have decided to conserve our remaining supply and move the farm to care and maintenance. This means that we will not be able to supply our normal range of fresh produce.

Thank you for your support and understanding. We look forward to getting back to normal after good rains come.

Why don’t we use bore water?

Bore water is used on the Island but the water must be sterilised and desalinated for human use and irrigation. We have a lovely old well on the property. We can sterilise the water with in-line ultraviolet filtration, but we do not favour desalination because it requires large amounts of power and produces toxic waste as a by-product which is poisonous to land and marine life.

Getting Tanked

Acquiring water is perennial challenge on Thornleigh Farm. We don’t bore into Lord Howe Island’s water table, as it is already under substantial pressure. Rain is to infrequent and inconsistent to sustain the gardens on its own.

Our solution? Capture rainwater, store it, and distribute it using drip-irrigation. That means tanks. Lots of them. We just installed a new 60,000l TankWorks tank, taking our total storage capacity somewhere north of a quarter of a million litres.

The new tank sits off the old butcher shop, plumbed to the shop roof. Existing tanks are plumbed off the garage and farmhouse, which means we now draw water off most of the major structures on the farm.