The peak body for WA’s 20,000+ Bush Fire Volunteers has formally adopted a policy calling on government to guarantee that water taken from private land for bush fires is replenished at no cost to the landowner.

Bushfire Volunteers’ President Dave Gossage said the motion was passed at last weekend’s State Committee meeting in response to members’ growing concern that the combination of water deficiency and drier fuel loads in many parts of WA could cause serious problems for local fire volunteers.

“One of the big benefits of WA’s unique locally owned and managed volunteer bush fire service is that our members have excellent knowledge and relationships within their local communities,” Mr Gossage said.

“Traditionally, those strong relationships have meant that if a farm dam or tank is closer to a fire than other water sources, landowners have been happy to let brigades take what they need to get the job done.”

“And because our volunteer bush fire service is built on trust and teamwork, when the emergency is over, volunteers have always worked with the local community to get the water replenished ASAP.”

“But there is currently no legislative requirement for water to be returned.”

“As water becomes more scarce, local sources will obviously become more important for firefighting and farming activities.”

“Supply and demand says this will increase the cost of water and therefore reduce the capacity of local governments to pay for it to be readily replaced.”

“Our concern is that without a legal guarantee, farmers might be put in the terrible position of having to either stop volunteers taking water for emergencies or be left without enough water for their stock.”

“We know that many of our members are also farmers and those who aren’t all understand the value of water and the challenge so many agricultural communities have securing reliable supplies.”

“The Bushfire Volunteers team will work with government and other stakeholders toward a positive outcome,” Mr Gossage concluded.