A drought-ravaged town has run out of water just weeks after a Chinese company was given the go-ahead to run a commercial water extraction facility in the region.
Stanthorpe in Queensland’s Southern Downs is now fully dependent on 42 truckloads of water a day brought in from a dam 60km to the north.
The local dam for the town of 5,000 people has dipped to just 11 per cent of capacity, with those living in Stanthorpe limited to 80 litres of water per person a day.
Southern Downs Regional Council tightened the water restrictions last month just one day after approving the development of a mining operation 40km away at the Queensland border town of Cherrabah.
The ‘full-time water carting’ from Connolly Dam consists of 1.3 megalitres per day and mayor Tracy Dobie said the operation is the biggest of its kind by an Australian local government.
‘We’ve now commenced full trucking of water. There’s 14 trucks doing three trips a day,’ she said.
‘Council promised the community we would not run out of water.
‘The initial stages of water carting went extremely well and without incident. We will now move to full-time water carting to provide water to the Stanthorpe Region.’
Remaining local reserves will be kept back for emergency use.
Despite the water importation, the 80-litre restriction will remain in place – four times less than the average individual water consumption of 340 litres per day according to Riverina Water.
Cr Dobie said further measures to maintain the water supply could involve a pipeline to Toowoomba and Warwick – to the north of Stanthorpe.
The desperate situation in the state’s south-east was further highlighted last year when a struggling Stanthorpe farmer was robbed of 70,000 litres of drinking water by his neighbour.
Andrew Todd, 61, had thieves target his Stanthorpe property in Queensland’s south-east three times over five months, stealing a mass amount of water.
Mr Todd told the Courier Mail he had installed a new water tank and shipped water in about five months ago.
While he is not angry at the neighbours, he said he feels sympathetic for them and would have happily helped them out if they were desperate.
‘It’s just very sad. You’ve got to lock your gates now,’ Mr Todd said.
Then in mid-December, the Southern Downs Regional Council approved the development of the mining operation about 40km away at Cherrabah on the border with New South Wales.
In a cruel twist, those living in Stanthorpe and Warwick to the north saw their water restrictions cut to 80 litres per person just one day after the water mining approval.
The council has told its ratepayers the restriction translates to no more than 90 seconds of shower time using a non-water efficient shower head.
Those living near the site set to be mined by Joyful View, which is owned by two Chinese investors, hit out at the council decision given the region’s dwindling supplies.
‘I don’t understand how it is allowed to happen,’ one resident told The Guardian.
‘If that water drains away from the shallow aquifers, it affects our long-term viability.’
The company plan to transport the water to a Gold Coast bottling plant, according to council documents.
The council are reportedly aware of land owners shipping water outside of the region, according to local newspaper the Southern Free Times.
But the region’s deputy mayor said they were powerless to intervene and could not regulate extraction by private companies.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Joyful View and Southern Downs Regional Council for comment.
Last month, Stanthorpe received 200,000 litres of water and 130 tonnes tonnes of hay bales in a huge emergency supply package from Australia’s Muslim community.
The delivery was organised by Muslim Aid Australia drawing on donations from thousands of individuals and companies across the country.
‘There are cattle dying, horses dying or they have to be sold because they don’t have any hay bales to eat or water to drink,’ MAA spokesman Riyaad Ally said.
Jubilant locals were seen welcoming the delivery trucks as they arrived and rushing to help unload the hay bales from trailers.