Tougher rules on water use looking likely
THE small downpour received earlier this week has done little to relieve the pressures of the current drought plaguing the Granite Belt, and levels at Storm King Dam are continuing to drop at an alarming rate of more than 34 megalitres a week.
The Southern Downs made the state's list of drought-declared council areas at the start of March.
Currently 75.5% of the state is drought declared - the largest area ever recorded.
Southern Downs councillor and farmer Cameron Gow described the drought as the worst he had ever seen in the region.
"There are different types of droughts," he said.
"In a long-term drought you normally still expect a bit of rain.
"But this drought seems much more intense.
"We are not getting the normal bits and pieces of rain, there isn't even rain to keep the dust down."
Cr Gow told the Border Post this time last year farmers were worried about the impact of hail storms.
"From hail storms to this has a pretty serious impact on the community," he said.
"We are not getting the rain needed to keep water storages up and the creeks and river systems moving."
Cr Gow said farmers were going to great lengths to secure water from wherever they could - which included laying large amounts of pipe and even using mobile pumping systems.
"Farmers generally deal with whatever issue is in front of them," he said.
"They are resilient and do use whatever they can to get them from year to year."
Robert Channon, of Robert Channon Wines, said it was the worst drought situation he had seen since he moved to the region 16 years ago.
"We still have enough to get us through this season but it would be nice to see a bit more than that," he said.
Mr Channon is remaining hopeful and is backing what he refers to as the "magical weather pattern of the Granite Belt".
"In drought years it tends to pour down when it gets to vintage time, generally around the Stanthorpe Show," he said.
"So it will probably be dry until the end of harvest but I'm hoping we get some rain come vintage time."
The council's water and wastewater team are keeping a close watch on the Storm King Dam level and have urged residents to adhere to the current water restrictions.
Water and wastewater manager Tendekai Mapeza said most residents were complying with the restrictions.
"But heading into summer, council has found people are increasing their water usage," he said.
Mr Mapeza said if current consumption levels continued, Storm King Dam would be bone dry within 12 months.
"Council wants to emphasise that tighter water restrictions may need to be imposed if residents do not reduce their water use and the situation does not change soon," he said.
Mr Mapeza said the drought was cause for concern and all residents throughout the Southern Downs were requested to conserve water.
People living in urban Stanthorpe are currently on high level water restrictions, meaning they can only water outside from 6-7pm on their allocated days. Those living in areas outside Stanthorpe town are still on the normal permanent water restrictions and can water on their allocated days anytime except from 10am-4pm.
Full details of restrictions can be found by visiting www.sdrc.gov.au then clicking on the link under the "about council" tab.