Stanthorpe has become the centre of the largest water carting project by a local government, with the apple and wine-growing town’s supply officially running out on Monday.
- The emergency water solution will cost $800,000 a month, fully funded by the state
- Stanthorpe residents are on emergency water restrictions of 80 litres of water per person, per day
- Tourism operators say media attention around the water shortage might be keeping people away
The main water supply for the town in southern Queensland has hit a critical level amid a severe and ongoing drought, with its population of more than 5,000 people now relying entirely on trucked water.
To meet the daily 1.3-million-litre requirement, 14 vehicles will cart 42 truckloads of water from Connolly Dam near Warwick to Stanthorpe’s Storm King Dam, in a 130-kilometre round trip.
The emergency water solution will cost $800,000 a month, fully funded by the state.
But without rain in the coming months, the backup supply will run out by August, after which the whole Southern Downs shire will be looking for a new supply.
Currently the shire is in discussions with the Queensland Government about getting access to the Dalrymple and Cunningham alluvium, underground water sources near Allora north of Stanthorpe.
Mayor Tracy Dobie said the State Government had already provided a lot of support to the council to do the investigations into the bores.
“I’m very confident the State Government will continue to support us in this to supply emergency water to our region,” Cr Dobie said.
There are plans to drill up to six new water bores, and a feasibility study into a pipeline connection between the Southern Downs and the Toowoomba Regional Council water supply, due to be completed at the end of February.
‘Water is on your mind all the time’
Residents have been placed on emergency water restrictions of 80 litres of water per person, per day.
Resident Rebecca Zanatta said her family of four used a system of buckets to move recycled around their home.
“Water is on your mind all the time — there’s nothing else but water,” Ms Zanatta said.
She said the family showered in a large plastic tub, then scooped that water out so it could be used to flush the toilet and wash clothes.
Ms Zanatta’s husband had a lawn mowing business on the side to supplement the household’s income, but the work literally dried up.
“Your general day-to-day stuff, you’ve really got to cut back, because we’ve got to add buying water to drink into our household and that sort of thing, so yes, it’s tough,” Ms Zanatta said.
Glenda Riley, who manages Granite Belt Drought Assist (GBDA), a charity helping to distribute donated drinking water, said people were now reconsidering even ways they used water.
She said one person was seen using a jug to catch drops from his neighbour’s water tank. “Asked why he was doing it, he said ‘well, I just want some water to make a cup of tea’,” Ms Riley said.
Tourism takes a hit
Tourism operators said the media attention around the water shortage might be keeping people away.
Helen Ferrier, from Mallow Organic Farm, which produces organic lamb and offers holiday accommodation and wellbeing retreats, said numbers were down at its cottage accommodation.
“I think there is a bit of perhaps a misconception that people don’t want to burden us,” she said.
“January-February is usually quiet, but it’s quieter than normal.
“We would really love people to come and visit the bush and visit Stanthorpe.”
Fires, drought and now no water
In September 2018, Stanthorpe and the nearby community of Applethorpe were hit by bushfires while scrambling to deal with the prospect of running out of water.
Many had to sacrifice precious stored water supplies to protect properties from fire.
Cr Dobie said the drought was psychologically draining for the whole region.
“I know myself how hard it is to wake up every morning,” she said. I live on a rural property.
“I look out the window, there’s these beautiful blue skies, but of course the trees are dying, the ground’s turned grey, there’s nothing green.”