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Canungra's local water supply shut down without warning

Dominic Cansdale and Charmaine Kane, Tuesday November 26, 2019 - 17:19 EDT
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Canungra resident Sarah Withecombe says her property is now just dirt and dead grass. - ABC

Residents of a drought-stricken south-east Queensland town say they have been blindsided by a decision to shut down the local water supply.

On Monday night, Seqwater and Urban Utilities announced that Canungra's $4 million water treatment plant, which opened in January this year, has been taken offline due to dwindling water levels in Canungra Creek.

Resident Sarah Withecombe found this morning that her family only has four days' worth of water left.

"[It's] really unfair, things should have been in place, people should have been warned," Sarah said.

"We're left high and dry."

Canungra is not connected to south-east Queensland's water grid and Seqwater has begun trucking treated water to the town.

While this alternative supply will be pumped directly to many properties as usual, other residents like Ms Withecombe, who live just outside of town, are not connected to the Urban Utilities water infrastructure.

Since bushfires in September melted pipes that connected Ms Withecombe's home to a nearby spring, her family has been dependent on using the town's water supply to fill their tank.

Sudden water loss creates a 'ripple effect'

Ms Withecombe said that after prolonged drought her 200-acre property is now "just dirt — dead grass and dirt."

"It's just scary, all our creeks have dried up," she said.

Larger water trucks cannot reach her property because nearby bridges cannot hold their weight, so Ms Withecombe has been driving a smaller water pod on her ute to fill up from Canungra's treatment plant.

Now Ms Withecombe will have to make a one hour trip to Beaudesert every five days at a cost of about $100, which she said she cannot afford.

"It's a ripple effect, a massive ripple effect — it takes away so much from your day," she said.

"What if you don't have a ute? What if you don't own a water pod? It's all those added expenses for people."

Ms Withecombe said given that drought conditions are expected to continue, "water restrictions need to be put through the whole town."

"I think they should have done that a long time ago," she said.

"I don't know if we have to fork out the money and get a bore put in — if that's even viable — because this stopped today."

Urban Utilities apologises

Urban Utilities spokeswoman Michelle Cull said it is feasible to continue trucking water into the town of about 1,000 residents.

"Seqwater are currently tankering to meet a demand of around 0.5 megalitres a day," Ms Cull said.

"It is possible to meet demand by tankering."

Ms Cull said it was not possible to keep Canungra's filling station — used by residents like Sarah Withecombe — operating under the circumstances.

"We were required to close the filling station without notice and do recognise this is having an impact on those customers, and we do sincerely apologise for that," she said.

Urban Utilities manages the infrastructure that connects properties to Canungra's water supply.

Seqwater, which manages the supply itself, has been contacted for comment.

'There will still be water,' says mayor

Scenic Rim mayor Greg Christensen said Canungra is one of many towns in the region that is not connected to south-east Queensland's grid.

"The adequacy of water in those corridors is a deep concern," he said.

"As the drought continues that comes under stress."

But he said discussions over voluntary water restrictions have been ongoing and that the council has been "encouraging people to be exercising prudent water disciplines."

"Watering lawns and things should be a long distant thought," Mr Christensen said.

While local standpipes used to refill mobile water tanks have been shut off, residents not connected to Canungra's reticulated system can instead travel to Nerang or Beaudesert.

"Overall the water reserves in south-east Queensland are continuing to decline," Mr Christensen said.

"And the weather bureau's outlook looks challenging."


© ABC 2019

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