Dignity Water providing fresh, clean water to rural communities in the far west

HELPING HAND: Lanz Priestly, founder of Dignity Water, is supporting rural communities who have undrinkable water. Photo: ZAARKACHA MARLAN
HELPING HAND: Lanz Priestly, founder of Dignity Water, is supporting rural communities who have undrinkable water. Photo: ZAARKACHA MARLAN

AS the drought continues to bite hard, communities as far west as Girilambone, Louth and Wilcannia, have been suffering acute water shortages for months.

There's a lack of water fit to drink, to shower in or even give to livestock.

People across the far west are receiving fresh, safe drinking water from Dignity Water, which is run by a group of Sydney-based people involved in homeless and marginalised services.

The charity is headed by Lanz Priestly, who is also known as the 'Homeless Mayor of Martin Place' and a champion for those who often struggle for the basic necessities, including fresh water.

"We became aware, about this time last year, that there were chronic drinking water problems," he said.

"You know if we're seeing all the photos of all the fish kill and the degradation of the river, that probably means people don't have a hell of a lot of water to drink either.

"People can't not have water to drink. You can't have inadequate water to give to your children. We wouldn't expect that in Sydney and I don't think that, personally, anybody should expect that out here."

Mr Priestly said the initiative began at a Christmas dinner for marginalised people in the city, where a group of homeless water vendors began raising money to supply water for communities doing it tough.

"I said to them you know, 'you might be short of food but out [in the Far West] they don't have anything decent to drink," he said.

"Well within 24 hours the homeless guys on the street had raised enough money to buy the six pallets of water to ship it out somewhere, so we sent it to Walgett."

Following the first delivery, Mr Priestly said they began crowd sourcing to raise money for regular water runs.

So far the charity have now delivered over half a million tonnes of bottled water to far western communities via road trains.

Dignity Water regularly supply pallets of water to the Central Darling, Bourke and Walgett Shires.

However as Summer quickly approaches, Mr Priestly said the charity are out west to discover what other towns are lacking drinkable water.

"We're out here to quantify where we need to get water into and how we get it in there," he said.

"We're really scared going forward into Summer ... we've looked at the outliers of the Bogan shire, we've dropped water in to GIrilambone before, and I suspect we're going to be dropping ongoing drinking water there."

For Mr Priestly, it's not generosity, it's a necessity to help smaller communities, who are often left forgotten.

"We've had some very surprised communities, particularly in the small places because they're just not used to people turning up at all," he said.

"They're used to seeing runs out to Walgett and Menindee, all this water driving past them and they're thinking 'what about us, we're experiencing the same thing, but nobody's talking about us'.

"Our strategy is that nobody gets left out. That's why we're out here."

Next the charity said they hope to set up a distribution centre in Cobar within the next month to support neighbouring villages around Nyngan and Warren.

"If there's no alternative responses from the government, we'll put a response strategy in place and whether the government implement it, or we have to crowd source the funds to do it, we'll try and do it.

"I just think that when I was a kid, this is how communities responded. When you saw part of a community struggling a bit, the rest of the community jumped in and helped them."

Any NSW community who has undrinkable town water should contact Dignity Water on 0460 410 355.

This story Far west receive drinkable water relief first appeared on Nyngan Observer.