In years of good rainfall the Southern Riverina offered plentiful
pastures and opportunities for the graziers who were settling the
land in the latter part of the 1800s.
The region was prime sheep and wool country, with
the many creeks and streams providing good water
supplies for stock.
“Being proud of his flock or herd, the
settler gives it every attention. Then come
the periods of low rainfall, and the
animals are starved by the ravages of
drought. Drastic losses by death mean
economic failures; the settler is unable to
meet his liabilities, and in consequence,
finds himself in difficulties for several seasons
until better times place him in a more
“A Pioneer’s Tribute”, MJ Ryan Moulamein NSW
Water for the Thirsty Inland
Regular droughts led individual landowners to begin
experimenting with irrigation, using steam driven
pumps and weirs on larger rivers and creeks.
Violent conflict with downstream neighbours often
followed; some resorted to explosives to remove
weirs and release water which had been held up.
As early as the 1870s landholders began lobbying the
NSW Government for water conservation dams and
The drought from 1895 to 1902 was particularly
severe and decimated many pastoral enterprises. But
at the same time the States had joined the Federation
of the nation, from 1901.
For landholders in the Southern Riverina this
seemed to offer some promise that an agreement on
the use of the Murray River’s waters for irrigation
would soon follow.
On rural properties landholders
were usually well prepared for
drought with windmills and
large underground rainwater
However many town
residents found themselves
relying on water supplies carted
in from elsewhere.
During several years of drought
in the early 1900s Finley
dependent on the Tocumwal
Carts like the one pictured
above were used to carry
water from the train to
people’s homes. Water was
then transferred from the
cart – bucket by bucket – into
household rainwater tanks.
The Finley engineering firm
JT Close was among those
producing a popular range of
JF Furphy & Sons, based in
Shepparton, was another well
known manufacturer. Photo: State Water Archives Collection.