DRY TIMES: Southern Downs dams have reached their limit. Picture: David Martinelli.
DRY TIMES: Southern Downs dams have reached their limit. Picture: David Martinelli.

WORLD WITHOUT WATER: Drought dries dam, full carting begins

WATER woes reached record lows in Stanthorpe today when prolonged drought forced the small, agricultural town to become entirely reliant on Warwick's Connolly Dam.

More than 40 trucks began the monumental mission of delivering 1.5 million litres of raw water to storage tanks at Storm King Dam, ensuring more than 5000 residents could turn their taps on without issue come nightfall.

The beginning of full water carting was a long time coming for Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie, whose team of local councillors worked with the State Government to secure $800,000 each week for the project.

"It's terrible to think we now find ourselves in this situation," Cr Dobie said.

It is a daunting prospect for Stanthorpe residents, who have been on 80L per person, per day, water restrictions since the beginning of December.

Lifelong resident Debbie Lightfoot-de Hamer made the tough decision to turn off her water meter recently, save for filling four buckets once every few days.

On a rare rainy day, she can be spotted running around her backyard "like a crazy woman", desperately placing pots and pans to catch what she can.

The dishwasher is off-limits, conditioner is a luxury of the past and baby wipes have become a lifesaver on hot, sweaty days.

"We all have to pitch in as a community," Mrs Lightfoot-de Hamer said.

"It's awful but if it's a choice between my shower and someone having a drink of water, I'll choose for them to have a drink, every single time.

"We all have to share that carted water, so we have to be responsible, our entire community depends on it."

Mrs Lightfoot-de Hamer said her 92-year-old father often expressed concern, asking her, "Where are we going to go from here? What if there's no water left? Will we have to evacuate?"

"I know people who have said they'll leave if they can't find work, or their dams dry up, so I really hope this water carting works," she said.

"Most people are hoping it's successful but it's really impacted on the mental health of the town.

"It's depressing that things have come to the state where we do have to be so ridiculously vigilant in everything we do."

Stanthorpe resident and counsellor Sue Dean said the drought could wear people down with ongoing psychological stress.

"When there's added stress to our everyday, regular stress it reduces our capacity for coping," Mrs Dean explained.

"And when there's no end in sight, and we don't know where the end of that tunnel is, that adds to it.

"We have no control."

Mrs Dean said she felt fortunate the council had been proactive in setting up the carting solution and the community was so readily coming on board.

"I'm really in awe of our community and how it's pulled together," she said.


  • If you, or someone you know, needs help call
    Lifeline on 13 11 14 or
    Headspace on 4661 1999.

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