DUST BOWL: Emma and Stephen Lambert with their three boys Zac, 12, Thomas, 8, and Sebastian, 5, have given up on the lawn as strict water restrictions kick in for Stanthorpe as of September 1.
DUST BOWL: Emma and Stephen Lambert with their three boys Zac, 12, Thomas, 8, and Sebastian, 5, have given up on the lawn as strict water restrictions kick in for Stanthorpe as of September 1. Liam Kidston

Learn to live with less

IN "THE worst drought in living memory”, the first casualty is the lawn but the Lambert family will have more pressing problems to deal with in the weeks ahead than greening up the front yard.

Like thousands of families across the Southern Downs, they'll be reduced to 100 litres of water a day from September 1.

In those circumstances, the humble backyard water tank becomes a crucial piece of infrastructure.

"We have the tanks set up but we need to properly connect them to the house and for that we need a plumber,'' explained Stephen, the artisan baker who, with wife Emma, runs the popular Zest Pastries in Stanthorpe's main street.

"And, as you can probably understand, getting a plumber is not easy at the moment.''

South Downs Mayor Tracey Dobie last Thursday announced some of the most onerous water restrictions ever imposed in the state as she faced down the worst drought in history, which would dry up the town's water supply by Christmas unless good rains fell.

A massive public education campaign was launched on Sunday to educate residents on water-wise habits.

The television, print and social media campaign will roll out across a massive tract of Queensland from South Burnett Regional Council through to Toowoomba and Goondiwindi in what Cr Dobie hopes will kick-start a nationwide re-education campaign on how we view our water supplies.

The restrictions have thrown a spotlight on a drought that has had most of the southern part of the state in its grip since early 2017, when the remains of Tropical Cyclone Debbie swept into the interior and provided the last real, meaningful rainfall.

Cr Dobie said locals were in no imminent danger of running out of water and if the nearby Storm King Dam didn't receive replenishment from the usually reliable spring storms, water would be trucked in.

While she is still doing the figures and won't say the price, it is certain the bill for trucking will go into the hundreds of thousands of dollars a month - a bill the council simply can't afford.

The other thing Stanthorpe can't afford is to lose the patronage of tourists.

"The support of visitors, particularly our fellow Queenslanders, is so vital during this time,'' Cr Dobie said.

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