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Tamborine Mountain school runs dry prompting calls for a 'water emergency' declaration

Bern Young, Jennifer Huxley and Charmaine Kane, Thursday December 12, 2019 - 14:19 EDT
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Communities in the Gold Coast Hinterland were drought-declared in May. - ABC

Members of a Gold Coast Hinterland community have called for the State Government to intervene and halt commercial water extraction as a school's bore runs dry.

Tamborine Mountain State School advised parents on Wednesday of limited water supplies in its bore, asking children to be sent to class with extra water bottles.

Toilets supplied with tank water remain operational and hand sanitiser is being provided, while the Department of Education is delivering tankerloads of water to the school for the remainder of the final week.

A Department spokesperson said "the school is operating as usual".

Tamborine Mountain is not connected to south-east Queensland's water grid and residents rely largely on bore and tank water supplies.

Parent pays $1,000 a year for water

Parent Hillel Weintraub said he boils his nine-year-old son's bottled water before sending him to the school every day.

"We've had four truckloads of water this year and the most we've ever had in 15 years is two," he said.

"It's a big difference."

Mr Weintraub said prices for trucking water to his property have been escalating as drought conditions dry up his tank.

"It started off at $140 a truckload, now it's $190, so that's almost $1,000 a year we pay for water," he said.

"I'm really happy to have rainwater and [we] drink rainwater rather than town water when it's coming, but it hasn't been raining."

'Declare a water emergency'

Craig Peters from protest group Save Our Water Tamborine Mountain said the school is "illustrative of the issues around the mountain".

"The water that we rely on from underneath the ground is drying up," he said.

Companies such as Coca-Cola have been sourcing their bottled water from bore supplies in Mount Tamborine, causing .

Mr Peters said the Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, Anthony Lynham, should "declare a water emergency" to allow for the suspension of commercial water extraction on Tamborine Mountain.

"Under the Water Act of 2000, which has been updated as of October 2019, we believe he has the power to essentially say there is a shortage of water that is threatening the wellbeing of people and the health of the people up here," he said.

"Ideally, we would like to see it end. For now, pause it at least until there's a break in this long-term drought."

"The Queensland Government could enact a law to essentially stop the bottling of underground water today."

Government 'does not have the power' to limit extraction

Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said his department did not have the power to limit commercial water extraction because groundwater in the area was not regulated.

"I do have the power to limit take in a declared water shortage — but that is everyone's take, including local farmers, households, and businesses," he said.

He said research from the Queensland University of Technology in 2011 suggested that less than 5 per cent of the average annual groundwater recharge was extracted.

"Of that 5 per cent, farmers use almost 84 per cent of the extracted groundwater for horticulture, households almost 11 per cent, and bottled water operations, about 5 per cent."

The ABC understands QUT is currently undertaking more research into groundwater trends.


© ABC 2019

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