WORTH WATER: Rising tide of festival support amidst drought
THERE is a groundswell of support for Jumpers and Jazz amidst community concerns about the strain on the struggling water supply.
During a press conference this week, Mayor Tracy Dobie said the council received several complaints from residents claiming the water supply would be unable to withstand additional pressure.
The common complaint may be based on misconception, as figures show water consumption in Warwick during Jumpers and Jazz last year was 5.657 megalitres less than the month before, when visitor numbers were down.
But events such as J&J and Snowflakes in Stanthorpe involve so much more than a drain on the water supply, according to Warwick Art Gallery director Karina Devine.
"There's got to be more to life than that,” Ms Devine said.
"It's the lifting of the spirits of the community that is so valuable. It's about being human and being together and sharing times together and having a bit of fun.”
The Mayor said it was important to continue business as usual through the worst drought on record.
"These events bring an enormous boost to the economy during a time when primary producers are suffering,” Cr Dobie said.
"That influx might mean down the track we have a few days less water but it's so important to the economy that these events go ahead.”
Jumpers and Jazz boosts the Southern Downs' economy more than $2.5million each year, while the Polocrosse World Cup contributed more than $5million.
The many thousands of visitors who spend in the region will help to pull it through drought, according to Ms Devine.
"I'm hoping there are people out there who want to support these communities and the best way to do that is to really support the festival,” she said.
In a comment on social media, Warwick resident Jodi Crowley said it didn't seem fair that people in town were suffering through extreme restrictions while thousands of tourists drew on the scarce water supply.
"I know it's good for the town but if you don't have the resources to house them then maybe we shouldn't have them,” she said.
J&J event organisers introduced measures this year to reduce the impact on water supply.
Bottled water from outside the region will be available on the street, portaloos will be everywhere and there will be signs in local accommodation to warn tourists of water restrictions.
Caravanners and RVers are also asked to bring their own water with them.
Abbey of the Roses owner Sonia Hunt said visitors from out of town had been incredibly water conscious during their stay at the historic B&B.
"People see the big flashing council signs as they drive in,” she said.
"They always ask how long they should limit their showers to so I think that shows they do think about it.”
The Abbey installed economic shower heads in all of their rooms except those with rain showers, and the remainder have restrictors on them.
"There are also big signs in all the bathrooms about water restrictions and a smaller card by the bathroom tap to remind visitors to make sure they're not dripping.”
J&J committee member Bette Bonney said the team was going out of their way to have a sustainable festival that benefits the entire community.
"We're looking at a number of different ways to be supportive of the community,” she said.
"Events like Celebration of Local Flavours open up the possibility of all these thousands of people from across the country becoming interested in local produce.
"We want to bolster the region and bolster their products.”
By providing an additional stream of revenue to the Southern Downs region, Mrs Bonney hopes J&J finances increase water accessibility.
"It supports the whole aspect of looking further at water shortage because we need funds in the community to be able to access water.”
Ultimately, event supporters say the Southern Downs may run out of water, but it doesn't have to run out of life.
"Bring the tourists here, because it's more than just the water,” Ms Devine said.
"Taking away these events would be taking the soul out of us.
"Maybe we'll run out of water a week before we would have but really, it's kind of worth it.
"I will have a shower every second day if that helps!”