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Drought prompts water restrictions in Stanthorpe, with TV ads warning locals on usage

By David Chen and Sarah Jane Bell, Friday August 9, 2019 - 09:46 EST
ABC image
A dry bed of mud where Stanthorpe's water supply used to be. - ABC
ABC image
The drought was creating a vicious circle in the town, says Miriam Vale publican Mitch Brennan. - ABC

Emergency talks are underway over the supply of water to towns in southern Queensland that are just a few months away from running dry.



Without a major downpour to top up supplies, the Granite Belt city of Stanthorpe, south-west of Brisbane, is expected to run out of water by December.

Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie said it was the worst drought in the region's history.

"When you don't see rain for a couple of years, and that's what it's been, our last real rainfall in the region was March 2017," Councillor Dobie said.

"It does start to play on your mind. You do look at the sky ... and you wonder will it ever rain again? Is this the start of a new era of climate change?"



If there is no rain by the end of spring, the council has estimated it will need to truck water to Stanthorpe, which is predicted to cost up to $1 million a month.

Cr Dobie said the cost would be worked out in the next few weeks.

"We are working with the State Government now on their contribution for both operational funding that is for water carding and allocations," she said.

The council is also talking to the Government about funding for permanent water infrastructure.

'Don't waste water'

Councils will also launch a new advertising campaign to encourage people to adopt simple water-saving measures, such as turning off the tap while brushing teeth.

The campaign will target people living in five council areas, including Toowoomba, Southern Downs, Western Downs, South Burnett and Goondiwindi.

Cr Dobie said she hoped it led to generational change on water usage.



"It's about encouraging everyone in your family to rethink how they use water so that we can, over a long period of time and into the future — even when this drought breaks — we can use the least amount of water we need," she said.

"I think the message is fantastic. Don't let water wastage run in your family."



Critical water restrictions will come into force across the Southern Downs region from next month, limiting usage to 100 litres a day per person.

Stanthorpe resident Max Hunter, who has been involved in council efforts to conserve water, said he believed many people still took water for granted.

"We here in the urban area can turn on a tap at the flick of a wrist and take it for granted," he said.

He said he believed sticking to usage levels under the coming water restrictions "should be attainable".

Dry worsening in parts of Gladstone region

Meanwhile, the central Queensland town of Miriam Vale is the latest in a growing list of communities affected by drought.

The town, in the Gladstone Regional Council area, has between 60 and 100 days before its water supply runs out.



Deputy Mayor Chris Trevor said the council had implemented water restrictions in Miriam Vale for the first time since 2002.

He said the council had been trucking in water as a temporary measure, at a cost of $900 per day.

"The region was drought-declared on May 1 and this is our first community that has been significantly impacted by the drought declaration," he said.

The council is investigating new water sources for the community of 500 people, which relies on the Baffle Creek system.

Cr Trevor said another aquifer was being investigated as a possible source.

"Once those studies have been undertaken, which will take about 30 days, we will bring that aquifer on stream. But if it fails, we will [continue] to truck water in," he said.

Phil Coyne has farmed cattle near Miriam Vale for almost 40 years and said after missing out on the wet season last year, the area had never been so dry.



"I've never seen our country and our dams as low as it is now, if I didn't have a bore I would have sold all my cattle," he said.

Mr Coyne said good prices at the meatworks were the only thing keeping many cattle producers out of dire straights.

Miriam Vale publican Mitch Brennan said the drought had already impacted local trade.

"It's bad news [for the farmers] and in town it will have an effect too," Mr Brennan said.

"All you hear about is the rain, price of cattle — it's a vicious circle."

Mr Brennan said talk at the pub was far from optimistic.

"If you speak to the old fellas in town there's no rain on the horizon, the long-term forecast is pretty grim," he said.

The Bureau of Meteorology has warned neither the Granite Belt nor the Gladstone region are likely to receive any soaking rain in coming months.


- ABC

© ABC 2019

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