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Darwin residents fear for future water security as underground aquifers run critically low

By Amy Culpitt, Friday October 25, 2019 - 16:14 EDT
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Bruce Lofts said residents were now taking extreme measures just to get by. - ABC

Residents have been left vulnerable and fearing for their future water security as underground aquifers run critically low in rural Darwin.

An underground aquifer supplies water to Berry Springs and its surrounds, but after the and increased demand in the area, the aquifer has diminished to a record low.

The director for water assessment at the NT Department of Natural Resources, Des Yin Foo, said "the lowest groundwater levels have now been reached and surpassed".

"The system has a certain capacity, and every drop that someone takes out is one less drop that's in the system," he said.

Mr Yin Foo warned water supplies would dry up unless bore users cut back.

"Every drop that you water on your garden is potentially someone else's drinking water," he said.

Key tourists attractions hit by drought

Overflow from the underground aquifer runs into the Berry Springs Nature Park.

The water level has reached such a critical point that, for the first time ever, the springs within the park have stopped flowing.

Next door, at the Territory Wildlife Park, tough water-saving measures have been introduced in an effort to keep the park open until rains return.

Park director Shael Martin labelled the restrictions "harsh mitigation measures".

"We've closed off any of our flow-through systems in the aquarium," she said.

"We've ceased or minimised irrigation.

"Everything we've done is with a view to maintain visitor amenity and animal welfare."

'We've got no water'

The nearby community of Southport relies on a communal bore for residents.

The bore is expected to run dry imminently, leaving locals no option but to ship in water at their own expense.

Resident Bruce Lofts said it was unacceptable.

"We're 30 kilometres from a major capital city as the crow flies, and we've got no water," he said.

"Having to cart water for households in the 2000s is just third-world country stuff."

Mr Lofts said residents were now taking extreme measures to get by.

"There's an older lady here in her 70s who can't cart water. She uses 20-litre containers at the bore," he said.

"She has to bathe in a bucket because she doesn't have water."

Residents want reticulated water to the township, or at the very minimum, a guaranteed supply.

'I feel for the residents'

Southport Progress Association president Barry Whalan said the community's elderly residents were suffering most.

Mr Whalan said a Southport resident was taken away in an ambulance earlier in the week, and was worried a lack of water could have been the cause.

"It was because they're not drinking enough water to try and save water, but you can't put your own life at risk," he said.

Monsoon rains are not expected until the end of December, and even when they do come, there are fears the problem will be ongoing.

"If we get a second bad year, where are we going to be at?" Mr Whalan said.

"I am worried. I'm really worried. And I feel for the residents of Southport."


© ABC 2019

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