The Queensland town facing water ‘day zero’


IT'S known for its lush hills and colourful vineyards, but the Granite Belt tourist town of Stanthorpe is now so dry it is just weeks from running out of water for the first time in history.

Just three hours southwest of Brisbane, Stanthorpe is on critical-level water restrictions and could run out of water before Christmas with one of it's main dams down to as low as 5 per cent.

Unless decent rain arrives in the coming weeks, the Southern Downs Regional Council will be forced to cart daily water supplies from Warwick - which itself is projected to run out of water within months.

The region's famous apple and wine industries have also been crippled by the drought, but Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie said the community's spirit would not be broken.

"Yes, this is the worst drought we've ever seen, but bloody hell, we're resilient people out here," she said.

Stanthorpe's Storm King Dam is down to less than 15 per cent of capacity while Warwick's Leslie (5 per cent, but with a larger capacity) and Connolly (30 per cent) are faring little better.

The receding Storm King Dam at Stanthorpe. Picture: Lachie Millard
The receding Storm King Dam at Stanthorpe. Picture: Lachie Millard

As part of extreme-level water restrictions activated in September, the region's residents are banned from using town water supplies for topping up swimming pools, laying turf or any other outdoor purpose.

Family pets can only be washed with water collected in a bucket while the region's sporting fields, public pools and even water fountains are also banned from using drinking water.

Residents are asked to comply with a 100-litre-per-day water limit, with fines in place for owners of properties consuming more than 600 litres per day.

Water trucks will start carting supplies in to Stanthorpe on trial runs in the next fortnight to ensure a smooth transition if it needs to become a daily occurrence by Christmas.

Cr Dobie, whose family history in the region spans eight generations, said it had never been so dry.

The receding Storm King Dam at Stanthorpe. Picture: Lachie Millard
The receding Storm King Dam at Stanthorpe. Picture: Lachie Millard

"This is the worst drought ever recorded, not just because of having little rain for the past three years but because in the last year we've had virtually no rain at all," she said.

"When you add in the heat and fires, it has been extremely challenging and if we don't get some summer rain soon, it's going to become even more difficult."

However, Cr Dobie said the region was still welcoming visitors with open arms and the famed Apple and Grape Harvest Festival, which lures up to 50,000 visitors each February, would still go ahead.

"We still need people to come and visit," she said.

"The injection of cash far outweighs the fact that we might need to bring in extra trucks of water.

"There's still some beautiful countryside and we have used recycled water to keep the parks, gardens and some of the sporting fields alive because people need to see some green."