News Queensland Queensland town cuts water supply as nation suffers worsening drought

Queensland town cuts water supply as nation suffers worsening drought

Rural Queensland is suffering a crippling drought. Photo: AAP
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Residents in a south-east Queensland town are panicking after its dwindling water supply was suddenly switched off.

Locals are being forced to drive an hour to get drinking water, and many fear they used up their precious personal supplies fighting September’s bushfires.

Tasmanian farmers are also feeling their pain.

On Tuesday, winemakers and producers in the state’s south-east were told to suddenly halve their water usage amid worsening drought conditions.

On Monday night, Seqwater and Urban Utilities announced that Canungra’s new $4 million water treatment plant had been turned off due to Canungra Creek’s low water levels.

Unlike other regions in south-east Queensland, Canungra is not connected to the SEQ Water Grid.

Instead, the small rural town relies on water from Canungra Creek, which has been steadily dropping over the past few days.

Canungra Creek’s water levels are dangerously low. Photo: Christopher Duncan

The nearest tanker filling station is a 30-minute drive away at 109 Helen Street, Beaudesert.

Another one is located 20 minutes away near 81 Yarrimbah Drive, Nerang, for operators licensed by the City of Gold Coast.

Seqwater has been trucking in treated water to the town, but it’s not enough to comfort anxious residents.

Locals can no longer fill up their water tanks using the filling station at Canungra’s recently upgraded water treatment plant. Photo: Seqwater

Long-time resident Keer Moriarty, editor of The Canungra Times, said the atmosphere in town was “just horrible”.

“We’ve got dead turtles and fish in the creek because there’s nothing left for them,” Ms Moriarty told The New Daily. 

Canungra was accustomed to drought, but September’s bushfires had put even more pressure on the town’s fragile water supply, she explained.

“A lot of people who weren’t on town water used the water they had to fight those fires,” Ms Moriarty told The New Daily. 

“People are now pretty desperate. It’s just horrible.”

Residents living out of town have been forced to make costly, hour-long round trips to get drinking water.

Water carriers are unable to deliver to everyone.

Water levels have been dropping in Canungra Creek. Photo: Christopher Duncan

Andrew Covino, owner of The Outpost Cafe in Canungra, said most people relied on water from the local treatment plant that had been turned off.

“I’ve been running this business for 13 years and I’ve never seen Canungra this dry before,” Mr Covino told The New Daily.

“Normally it’s lush green.”

He said businesses had been hurt by a drop in tourism due to dry weather and the recent bushfires.

“People usually come for bush walks in the surrounding areas, but it’s been too dry,” Mr Covino said.

Andrew Covino said he’s never seen Canungra so dry. Photo: Supplied

Urban Utilities spokesperson Michelle Cull urged everyone in Canungra to save as much water as possible.

“While Seqwater’s tankering is maintaining water supply for the town, there is not enough to service the demand at the Canungra tanker filling station,” Ms Cull said.

“We sincerely apologise for the impact this is having on people in the community who use this filling station.”

She also asked residents to check for any hidden leaks on their properties.

Canungra Creek on Wednesday. Photo: Christopher Duncan

Formal water restrictions will be introduced in the town on Saturday.

Scenic Rim Regional Council mayor Greg Christensen said Canungra’s water supply situation was an “ongoing and serious issue” made worse by “the hot and dry conditions associated with drought”.

“A secure and reliable water supply is critical for all residents,” Cr Christensen said.

But panic over dwindling water levels extends far beyond Canungra.

That same fear is being felt all over Australia.

Tasmania’s east coast has experienced drier-than-usual conditions, with water levels in Ridgeway Dam and Lake Fenton being hardest hit.

Hobart residents may soon be slapped with water restrictions and farmers on selected irrigation schemes have been ordered to cut their water usage in half.

Affected farmers – many of them behind the state’s high-quality cheeses, wine and fresh vegetables – are worried they might struggle with the new conditions.

“If the restrictions stay we’ll have to reduce our crops and reduce our staff, so we have to work as a team, TasWater, Tas Irrigation and farmers to utilise the water the best we can,” vegetable grower Colin Houston told the ABC.

In New South Wales, the tiny town of Guyra is due to run out of water in less than 400 days, while Bourke hangs on a six-month lifeline supply.

Coastal towns in the state’s north like Gloucester are facing extreme water shortages, while bigger towns like Dubbo, Armidale and Tamworth prepare to run out of drinking water by late next year.

Queensland is no better.

Warwick’s Leslie Dam is sitting at less than six per cent, and is expected to run dry by August 2020.

Nearby Stanthorpe’s Storm King Dam could be empty by the end of the year.

Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory have all suffered drought this year, too.

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