Huge dam disappears as police investigate 'bizarre' theft
"THE entire thing is just bizarre."
When Pottsville man Wayne Peters visited his West Bungawalbin property late last month, he was astonished to discover his dam, which is the size of two football fields, had "only a few puddles left".
Mr Peters, who had not visited the remote property for nearly six months, said during that time an enormous amount of water had "simply vanished" from his large dam, as well as a smaller spring-fed dam which is now "bone-dry".
He said while he isn't sure exactly how much water has disappeared, he estimates it would be more than 19 mega-litres of water, or approximately three Olympic swimming pools.
"I've just been gobsmacked," he said.
"I've owned the property since 2008 and I've never seen the dam dry up. Even the previous owners have never seen this happen in 39 years."
He said the closest he has seen to this "level of devastation" was when the dam ran low in 2007.
"But even then it was still half-full," he said. "It was nowhere even close to this."
Mr Peters said he doesn't know how or why the dams have dried up, and said it is either the result of a severe drought situation, or it could be something suspicious.
"How can it be possible to lose 100 per cent of my water in such a short period of time," he said.
He said part of the confusion comes from the lack of physical evidence of water extraction.
"It doesn't look like someone has entered the property with trucks," he said.
"Besides for that volume of water to go missing, standard water trucks would need to make multiple trips andif they were regularly coming backwards and forwards it would have left a mark."
He said he had considered the possibility of a leak but said he has not been able to find a visible leak, and said he believes to lose such a large quantity of water, there would have to be multiple holes.
"The biggest tragedy is we have an ecosystem which has been completely devastated," he said.
"We've already lost at least five turtles and countless muscles."
He said his property, which was once home to an abundance of wildlife is now desolate.
"Birds are basically the only wildlife I have left," he said.
"Because unless there's rain falling from the sky, there's nothing here for them to drink."
He said as well as the environmental impact, he is worried about the approaching fire season.
"I'm very concerned about the safety of myself and my property if a bushfire starts," he said.
"My only protection is whatever water is left in my water tank to protect a house and shed on a 100 acre block.
"If a fire starts, I am in big trouble."
He said even if the water loss was environmental, he would be interested to know if any other property owners have experienced accelerated evaporation.
He said while the recent rain has created small puddles in the dam, he said it would require a flood-event to restore his water.
Richmond Rural Crime Prevention Team are investigating the potential theft.
"The circumstances under which the water has been extracted are unclear but it has been alleged to have occurred over the past six months," Richmond Police District senior constable David Henderson said.
"Police are appealing for any information in relation to this incident or if any other person has been subjected to a similar incident in recent times."
Anyone with information should contact Richmond Rural Crime Prevention Team on 6626 0599 or Crime Stoppers 1800 333 000.