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What has the rain done to drought-affected towns running out of water?

By Caitlyn Gribbin and Emma Machan, Saturday February 15, 2020 - 06:19 EDT

The number of Australian towns at risk of running out of water within months has decreased substantially, thanks to recent heavy rain.

With the falls described as a "huge relief", several towns and communities now have many more months' worth of water, but they are continuing to grapple with the unprecedented drought.

Just a fortnight ago, for urban water supply well before the end of the year.

Now, that number has dropped to 45 towns, with New South Wales receiving the most relief.

* Supplementary water carted when required

** Can switch to bore water if required

*** Water infrastructure projects underway

"There is a lot of good news in all of this," NSW regional town water supply coordinator James McTavish told the ABC.

"There are a lot of happy people out there and I actually thought that some of them were at the bottom of the well of despair [before the rain]."

Mr McTavish is working for the state government to help regional councils respond to the drought and plan for new dams, bores, pipelines and weirs.

He said some NSW towns that had run out of water and were relying on bores or on trucking it in, such as Walgett and Braidwood, now have "good flows" in their river system.

"We've gone from the whole state being low on water to two major valleys and a minor valley. The change in people's mindset is enormous," Mr McTavish said.

"It's great they're talking positively … this will be a huge relief for the whole community."



In Queensland, the Southern Downs town of Stanthorpe continues to truck water in after no major change to the dam supply despite heavy rain in the district.

But nearby Inglewood, Goondiwindi and Bungunya have had "terrific rain", according to Goondiwindi Regional Council Mayor Graeme Scheu.

"Inglewood has gone from a dire situation to a much better one," Cr Scheu said.

He said the town has improved from less than three months worth of water supply to "at least six months" and water is no longer being carted in.

Goondiwindi, which was due to run out as early as May, has been given a "bit more breathing space, probably another six to eight weeks of water", while Bungunya, which was down to its last month, should have half a year's worth of supply now.

"It's unreal. It's undoubtedly provided immediate relief but it's a short-term fix at the moment until we get the dams supplies to reasonable levels," Cr Scheu said.

In the Toowoomba Regional Council area, the rain has not yet provided relief for the urban water supply in Clifton, Cambooya and Vale View.

But councillor Nancy Sommerfield said underground bores, which some towns rely on, are starting to "recharge" after the wet weather.

"Of course the other positives are that everyone's rainwater tanks are full, gardens are wet and therefore there is less pressure on water supply," Cr Sommerfield said.

"Pressure is temporarily off the region's urban water supply [because people will use rainwater tanks].

"There is optimism in the air, this rain is very welcomed."


© ABC 2020

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