Would you drink this water? The residents of one NSW town are being told it's perfectly safe.

Fill the kettle. Wash the dishes. Take a shower. 

In a country like Australia, we often take for granted that when we turn the tap, the water that flows from it is fit for consumption and bathing.

But that is not the reality for many forgotten residents of Moama. 

Floods recently ravaged the Victoria/New South Wales border towns Echuca-Moama, with the Murray River peaking at a height of 94.97 metres above sea level on October 27.

Yet while the waters may have finally subsided, the local community are still grappling the impact. 

Instead of clear water, when they turn on their taps, out gushes dirty, brown water. 

Last week, residents vented their concerns on social media.

Nurse Sarah Dixon had been preparing a bath for her 13-week-old baby.

"Ours [sic] is shocking tonight," she posted, in accompaniment to a photo.

Image: Facebook/@Sar Dixon


Speaking later to 7NEWS.com.au., she said, "It literally looked like straight river water."

“Being a nurse I know what little parasite can lurk in the (river) water so (I) was not risking the chance.”

Instead, she washed her baby at her parent's home, where she has also taken to washing her white laundry. 

Also posting in the local community Facebook group, resident Dianne Smith said she needs to replace her underwear and sheets from washing them in the water - "even soaking in Nappy San doesn't get it out".

"It's gross to think we're showering in this," added Joanne Mason. 

Families are being forced to fork out for bottled water, with some residents of nearby Echuca and Nathalia saying they too have been affected. 

Local government say it's an issue that is likely to continue for weeks to come. 

It seems the floodwater from the river systems has affected the council's filtered water networks, which has caused the discolouration.

But authorities say the water is fine to drink.

"While the filtered water is discoloured, it is not harmful and the filtered water quality is within the requirements of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines," a Murray River Council spokesperson said, reported ABC.


“Due to the discolouration, the following may occur; toilet u-bends may look a little murky, bath water may look dirty, white sheets and clothes may not stay white when washed.”

Speaking with Mamamia one week later, little has changed, says Dixon. Some days the water is a little clearer; other days, it's thick brown.

Dixon said that after her comments were aired in the media, she received a knock on her door early the next morning from local council workers to test her water.

They ran some tests, and took samples of her water. But she hasn't heard from them since. 

Dixon says the reasoning they offered for the water discolouration was "due to the time of year, with many people filling their pools".

"I've lived here for 11 years, and that's never been an issue," she explained.

"Their solution was for me to leave my laundry tap running until it runs clear. I'm not going to pay to have my tap running non-stop, because it's certainly not running clear."

She continues to bathe her daughter at her parent's home, with no information as to how long it will take before the water runs clear again. 

And this all may not seem a big deal to those who dwell in the comfort of the city, or other parts of this country. 

But water is life. 

And lacking access to clear water, is just another challenge an already beaten down community must face. 

A community that has lost homes (many uninsured) and property and beloved pets and livestock and crops and livelihoods and community infrastructure.


And this crisis is on the back of years of lockdowns. 

Citing a "cumulative ... response of stress", executive director of community services at Echuca Regional Health (which also services Moama) Cynthia Opie said that teams overseeing the long-term recovery of floods are reporting unusual levels of distress.

"The impact of that on people's emotional wellbeing was already there and hasn't really gone away yet," she told ABC.

"To have a flood inundation on top of that, what we've seen and identified is that the rates of crisis for people has been that little bit compounded."

And we already know that the rates of suicide are much higher in rural and remote Australia - in fact, the numbers are 60 per cent higher than capital cities. 

So, this is not just a bit of 'murky water'. It must be addressed.

"It's tiring," says Dixon. 

"After everything we've been through, things like this tip you over the edge.

"The flood water may have subsided, and the media has moved on, but the mood around town is very tired and depressed. We have no tourism, and local businesses are struggling because no one wants to spend.

"People are trying to put on a brave face, but it's going to take a long time to rebuild."

Keen to read more from Rebecca Davis? You can find her articles here, or follow her on Instagram.

Feature Image: Facebook/@Sar Dixon/Mamamia.

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