Reins on water supply to tighten further as dam level drops

It was great to wake up to steady rain on Saturday morning but the precipitation won't put off the  introduction of a new interim water restriction classification of Level 4.5 from Wednesday, April 17.

Councillors endorsed the proposal at last week's monthly meeting, in an effort to stave off Level 5 restrictions when all non-essential water uses are banned.

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Under Level 4.5 only water carriers registered with council will be able to draw from the potable water dispensing station on Riley Street, and then only deliver to tanks connected to residences within the shire.

Garden microsprays or watering systems and hand-held hoses (one per residence) can be used only between 5.30pm and 6pm. 

Sprinklers in market gardens and hand-held hoses in nurseries can only be used between 5pm and 6pm. (Nurseries can instead opt for the domestic half-hour of microsprays.)

The watering of public gardens, sportsgrounds and the showground with potable water is banned.  Council is using waste water from the treatment plant process, however, to help retain public green space trees and garden beds. Its water carts carrying the non-potable water will be appropriately-signed.

The use of potable water for ready-mixed concrete is banned. The automatic filling of stock troughs from the town water supply will be allowed only until the Apex Park bore is operating.

All other uses of potable water is subject to council approval.

Council's chief operating officer Andre Kompler said the dam level is dropping at a rate larger than envisaged, and the long-range weather forecasts aren't looking good.

"It's appropriate to be pre-emptive, and not wait until Level 5," he told the meeting.

Councillor Bronwyn Petrie fought to shift the daily half-hour window of domestic watering away from the original 5pm, to allow business owners and staff time to get home from work and access the same opportunity as other households.

Mr Kompler will be looking at other alternatives over the next nine months to mitigate the effects of the drought on the water supply. He said Councillor Gary Verri's suggestion of liasing with Southern Downs Regional Council about getting water from their supply could be a longer-term prospect, as could piping in water from other sources but such projects are big dollars.

"The reality is we've got to deal with the next 12 months," Mr Kompler said.

"The new water treatment plant will help, but effectively that's two years away."

Equipment for the Apex Park bore, to potentially supply stock water, was being sourced but Mr Kompler said it could be two months before it was operational, although he hoped not.

Once the plant is in place the next step is to carry out testing to determine the current sustainable rate of extraction. Should the rate be acceptable the current test licence will have to be converted to an operational licence, and it's hoped the state government can expedite this process given the drought conditions.