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Safety fears emerge over dwindling Thomson River level in western Queensland

By Chrissy Arthur, Tuesday January 28, 2014 - 10:28 EDT
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The Mayor Joe Owens says people using boats or kayaks or swimming also need to exercise caution as waterholes dry up. - ABC

A western Queensland council says it may be forced to consider restrictions on the recreational use of an outback river, as the drought dries up the water supply.

The Longreach Regional Council has introduced level three water restrictions as the supply in the Thomson River dwindles and residents are being urged to reduce usage.

The Mayor Joe Owens says people using boats or kayaks or swimming in the river also need to exercise caution, as waterholes dry up.

"The public safety does come first, that is for sure," he said.

"You've got no idea what is under the surface there and as the river goes down, anything that may be there could become more of a hazard, so we certainly do have to look at how much longer we can allow people to use it.

"I will have to see just what we can legally do about it, if we can stop people using it."

Councillor Owens says neighbouring towns may help to supply water to Longreach, if the water supply in the Thomson River runs dry.

However, he says there are still two more levels of water restrictions available and he is not sure how much supply is left.

"I won't put a time frame on it because there are too many variables involved," he said.

"The drought management plan does cover the scenario of carting water.

"As we get closer to those times, then we will revise those plans and make sure that everything is in place.

"Winton, Aramac, Barcaldine, they are all running on bore water and are a few places that are being, or will be looked at."

Grazier says river under pressure

Grazier Graham Moffatt has lived on the Thomson River, 60 kilometres north of Longreach, for more than 60 years.

He says the river is almost dry at his place.

"The river at the moment [here] is not the lowest it has ever been but it is not far away from it," he said.

"It hasn't completely dried up but it is not far from being completely dry.

"You would have to go back to about 2002 - the river up here, it was about the driest it had been in almost 100 years."

Mr Moffatt says growth in Longreach means there is more demand for water.

"There is a significant drain out of the river," he said.

"If you go back probably over the last 100 years, there have been periods where the waterhole has been lower than what it is but with the growth of the town and so forth, that is taking so much more water out of the river.

"It is just a cycle that goes on in this country."

Graziers and residents are hoping for rain from the weather system in the Coral Sea, which may become a cyclone later in the week.


- ABC

© ABC 2014

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