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When the floods came

Published 14 Dec 2021 by Tim Zwiersen (Reserve Manager)

My family and I moved up to Boolcoomatta Station Reserve on Adnyamathanha and Wilyakali Country in mid-October 2021, to take up the role of managing this amazing property. 

Not only have we have been fortunate to have mild weather (typically this district is subject to temperatures in the high 30s and even low 40s at the end of spring), but we've witnessed a significant rain event.

Our very first week here, thunderstorms lashed the surrounding hills of the Bimbowrie Ranges. We had barely a drop of rain, but the next morning, on my way out to perform reserve duties I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Oonartra Creek had flooded. This rain also flooded the Mingary Creek, which winds its way through the eastern boundary of the reserve.

We continued to have small rain events that freshened the vegetation across the landscape, but nothing prepared us for the rain that came the last week of November 2021.

The weather was sultry on Tuesday night, and showers started early Wednesday, steady at first then a rainstorm so heavy that you couldn’t see the 100 metres from the workshop to the homestead.

The local creeks rose quickly to become torrents of water sheeting off the hills, with miniature waterfalls across the slopes.

A roar could be heard in the background, and on inspection we found the house dam inlet pipe, and the adjacent causeway to have a volume of water pouring through and over them. The following day the rain hadn't stopped, and the creeks continued to rise, spreading to flood the adjacent flats and suddenly a usually bone-dry watercourse was a hundred metres wide, lapping at the steps of the shearer’s quarters! 

As is the case with desert creeks and rivers, they are fickle beasts and within a day of the rain abating the homestead creek could be navigated with gumboots once more.

For the weather nerds: Boolcoomatta received 108mm of rain over five days, which is more than the rest of the 2021 calendar year combined.

The highest November rainfall recorded was in 1958, with 116.5mm, making this a significant rainfall event that will initiate rapid and welcome changes for the flora and fauna on the reserve. 

The 2019 drought only delivered 57.9mm for the entire year. The lowest rainfall on record for Boolcoomatta was in 1940, with a paltry 17mm recorded, an extreme contrast to the 608.9mm recorded a decade later in 1950.

A landscape underwater after 108mm of rain fell over two days. Photo by Tim Zwiersen. A landscape underwater after 108mm of rain fell over two days. Photo by Tim Zwiersen.
The rain event is a significant one for South Australia’s arid rangelands. Photo by Tim Zwiersen. The rain event is a significant one for South Australia’s arid rangelands. Photo by Tim Zwiersen.
A miniature waterfall near the homestead. Photo by Tim Zwiersen. A miniature waterfall near the homestead. Photo by Tim Zwiersen.
Rain soaking into the soil will initiate rapid and welcome changes to flora on the reserve. Rain soaking into the soil will initiate rapid and welcome changes to flora on the reserve.
Water water everywhere around the Boolcoomatta homestead. Photo by Tim Zwiersen. Water water everywhere around the Boolcoomatta homestead. Photo by Tim Zwiersen.

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