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Murrurundi's taps turned on in drought-ravaged town living for years on restrictions

By Cecilia Connell, Friday May 29, 2020 - 14:28 EST
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After two years, water restrictions in Murrurundi will be dropped from the highest level today. - ABC

In a momentous day for the residents of Murrurundi in the Upper Hunter Valley, a 40-kilometre water pipeline supplying the town will be switched on today where locals have been living under the highest level water restrictions for two years.

Across those two years, locals have been .

Water has been trucked to the town on Level 6 restrictions since January 2019.

The mammoth engineering project, predominantly funded by the NSW Government, will transport up to two million litres of water a day from the nearby town of Scone, which in turn sources water from Glenbawn Dam.

The precious resource will climb 330 metres before reaching Murrurundi, bringing much-needed .

Boost for local business

The relaxation of restrictions to level two is being welcomed by businesses heavily reliant on water.

Kylie Arnold-Cross manages the White Hart Hotel and said it will make an enormous difference.

"It's definitely challenging to have to mop out, instead of hose the kitchen and beer garden. Even washing the glasses in the bar," she said.

"Everything we do in this industry we use water, so trying to restrict ourselves on that and keep up our hygiene practices has been hard.

"We also have accommodation at the hotel so laundering is definitely going to be made easier for us — not having to put ourselves on a time plan for when we do and don't wash."

That sentiment is being echoed by local real estate agent David Bettington who thinks the prospect of water security will attract new residents to Murrurundi.

"We've had people call and say 'do you have water restrictions?' And we say 'yes', and that's the end of the call," he said.

"So hopefully after this, that'll eliminate that and bring a lot of buyer confidence back into the town."

Mr Bettington said the situation with COVID-19 could enhance this prospect even further.

"I think that there'll be a lot of tree-changers now because they realise they can work from home and this water will definitely improve the whole situation in town. It’ll be a big positive."

Local children hatching plans

The reduced water restrictions are .

Students are already making plans for the summer ahead, catching up on long-abandoned, water-fuelled activities.

Eight-year-old Srishti Goli cannot wait to get back to nature.

"I'm really looking forward to walking to the river, throwing rocks and see how big they splash. Plus seeing all the small little animals coming back like turtles," Srishti said.

Grade one student Hunter McPherson intends to spend more time at the local pool.

"I'm going to jump in the pool and touch the bottom with my feet and my hands," he said.

For eleven-year-old Olivia Witcher, the backyard sprinkler is beckoning.

"Hopefully, if we're not back on water restrictions by summer, we're going to put on the sprinkler and me and my dog Darcy are going to run through the sprinkler together like we used to."

Drought recovery begins

It is not just the town taps that are being turned on.

Recent rain has started to fill surrounding creeks and riverbeds.

Jenny Loasby volunteers at a drought pop-up pantry in town and said while the tide is definitely turning, the road to recovery will be a long one.

"It's been pretty tough here for the last two years with the level restriction of number six all the time and I think people are just getting really, really tired of not being able to do what other people in areas that don't have restrictions just take for granted," she said.

"Like being able to turn your tap on and being able to just rinse your dishes. Just simple little things like that."

But she said the changing landscape is having a positive impact on people's mindsets.

"When you look out the door here it's green!" she said.

"That's the best part, looking out and seeing the town green again instead of sad and brown.

"Everybody gets really down, but with the green now everybody's spirits are lifted a bit."


© ABC 2020

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