For the first time in living memory, the bores are running dry at Chris and Chantal Booth’s cattle property near Rockhampton.
- Landowners are trucking in water as regular groundwater sources run dry
- Farmers near Rockhampton are lobbying for access to water from the nearby Fitzroy River
- It was the sixth-direst October on record for Queensland
The loss of groundwater supply is hitting farmers across the district, with many of them paying a heavy price for parched and dusty paddocks as they truck water in from Gracemere, south of Rockhampton.
“Our stock numbers [270 head] will have to be culled even though there’s a reasonable body of feed on the property because of the underground water gone and the bores shut off,” Ms Booth said.
Like much of Queensland, there is no decent rain in sight for the Booths with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting a drier-than-average November for much of the state.
The grim outlook for the end of spring comes after the sixth-driest October on record following a dry September.
Communities across the state are struggling to manage the extreme conditions.
The Gympie district, 170km north of Brisbane, is already facing huge demand for water carting as tanks and dams dry up.
Mary Valley Haulage managing director David Warren said they were flat out transporting water to desperate property owners.
“There are that many people running out of water, you just can’t get to everyone,” he said.
“I even had to fill a dam the other day for some fellow because he’d run out of water for his stock. So, it’s getting pretty bad.
“I’m getting calls from anywhere from Glenwood, Gympie, Noosa, Doonan, everywhere,” he said.
“Yesterday, I had 47 missed calls and that was just the ones I missed.”
Kandanga hobby farmer and mother of six Vienna Sansom said it was the driest she had ever seen.
“It’s a worry … Just not seeing an end to the dry spell,” she said.
“We’re expected to have rain [this week] but it’s so dry out here now that we’d have to have a month of rain to make any difference.
“I think a lot of people don’t realise that 20 minutes’ drive away [from Gympie] we’re all on major fire bans and crispy grass and it’s very dry and a lot of our farmer neighbours are having to move their animals on,” she said.
“I’m looking down at my dam at the moment, and it’s just like a mud pile, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
“I’m just hoping and praying really; there’s not a lot more I can do.”
From too much to too little
Amamoor grazier Ray Zerner said this time last year they were under water in the floods but that was followed by poor summer rain.
“We’re paying for it now,” he said.
“I’ve talked to a lot of mates and they’re all pulling their hair out — they don’t know which way to turn.
“Further down north of Gympie, the Mary River’s just about stopped.”
Gympie Mayor Glen Hartwig warned the community to be water-wise as further restrictions were likely.
Amamoor, Kandanga, Kilkivan and Goomeri locations are already on level 3 restrictions of 180 litres per person a day, while filling pools and watering lawns is prohibited.
Back in central Queensland, the irony for the Booths is that they live just five kilometres from the reliable water supply of the Fitzroy River, and a few tantalising kilometres away from where the $1 billion Fitzroy to Gladstone water pipeline is being built.
But there’s no pipeline to their Ridgelands area and even though a study for a future water scheme is underway, delivery would be years away for hundreds of frustrated residents in the wider area who are busy dealing with current challenges.
“The local suppliers aren’t getting hay at the moment,” Ms Booth said.
“There’s a lot of people can’t grow it, the lack of water, there’s [48 hectares] sitting there fallow in front of us because there is no water supply close enough to us to generate a productive crop.”
There is a more positive outlook beyond November for landholders, with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting rain for summer, although it is still likely to be below average.
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