The ongoing drought in the Darling Downs area is bringing out the kindness of strangers, with people around the South East working together to come to the aide of drought-stricken communities by donating thousands of litres of drinking water.
The area is experiencing its worst drought on record and the Granite Belt, which encompasses Queensland’s southern border, have entered strict water conditions that allows one person only 100 litres of water per day.
Gold Coast Rotarian Sharyn Watson decided to help the drought-affected communities by starting the Water for the West project, to supply drinking water to communities in the Darling Downs, and got her Hope Island Rotary Club involved.
The Water for the West project aims to assist drought-stricken towns by providing clean drinking water, as well as water for cooking, washing and flushing toilets.
Initially aimed at supporting local schools who had almost run out of clean drinking water, such as Applethorpe State School, the project quickly expanded to include people in all drought-affected parts of the area.
“The Rotary Club of Tenterfield Granite Belt are distributing the water to schools and people in the area who are really struggling with purchasing water,” she said.
“We’ve had amazing support and generosity from transport companies in Brisbane and a lot of those funds donated are now being used to provide transport to get water out to those regions [in the Darling Downs].”
Ms Watson said she started the Water for the West Facebook group in August and said she had received a huge response from people wanting to help.
She said the number of people in the group had grown rapidly, with the page getting more than 6000 likes.
“We’ve added some really awesome players to the team that have really helped take this project to the next level.”
There are more than 21 different drop-off points from the Sunshine Coast through to Brisbane and the Gold Coast where people can donate water, and Ms Watson said she was thankful for the amazing support she was getting from the community.
Donations of bottled water (600ml water bottles and 10L containers) are being collected, as well as monetary donations to assist with sending tankers of water to the affected areas.
Ms Watson said the project had also raised awareness of the plight of the drought-affected communities, which was almost as important as the water deliveries themselves.
“We’ll keep raising awareness about the drought in the Darling Downs and getting more donations and sending them out there.”
Southern Downs Council Mayor Tracy Dobie said her community was very grateful fellow Australians cared enough about them to take action.
“I don’t know what other word I can use to describe it, our community is filled with gratitude,” Ms Dobie said.
“The wonderful donations by residents from Queensland and all over Australia actually are meaning that those rural residents don’t have to buy water,” she said.
“One of the issues for them, and for many in the rural sector on rural properties, is that they have no income at the moment because of drought,” Mayor Dobie said.
“Here we live in our little pocket of the world and around us people care enough to donate it and it’s heart warming,” she said.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced earlier this month that the Queensland government would provide water funds for the drought and fire-affected Southern Downs.
The Premier, who visited the drought-stricken community of Stanthorpe earlier this month, said in a statement the government had allocated enough funding for infrastructure and the ongoing cost of carting water for residents until 2021.
“My government will help the Southern Downs Regional Council ensure Stanthorpe’s residents have a secure drinking water supply until 2021,” Ms Palaszczuk said in the statement.
“These emergency funds will cover $2.4 million worth of water infrastructure, as well as costs to cart water,” she said.
“Around 34 truckloads of water per day will be carted from Connolly Dam to Storm King Dam, while it’s needed.”
“That’s an estimated $800,000 per month to cart 1.6 million litres of water in each day.”
“With bushfires following the prolonged drought, Stanthorpe will not be left to battle through this alone.”
Ms Palaszczuk said if the drought lifted and the wet season delivered enough water, then the carting would no longer be needed.
Mayor Dobie said she welcomed the announcement and said she was appreciative of this essential funding for emergency water and carting cost.
“This is a great relief, because we have a big region, we don’t have a lot of money and having to pay for emergency water on top of the other burdens of just having such a low income at the moment, has meant that our residents have been very worried,” she said.
“The funding provided by the state government means that there will be no need to implement a special levy or utility charge to our community.”
“The last thing we wanted to have to do was borrow or place any additional charge onto our residents, and the fact that the Queensland government has agreed to meet 100 per cent of our funding submission is absolutely fantastic.”
For information about where you can donate water, visit the Water for the West Facebook page or email@example.com.