Water saving measures have become urgent as dam levels across the region continue to drop.
Water saving measures have become urgent as dam levels across the region continue to drop. Jayden Brown

NO WASTE: Only one town hits extreme restrictions target

ONE close-knit community where neighbours run pipelines between properties to help out when water becomes scarce is the only area on the Southern Downs managing to adhere to extreme water restrictions.

As dam levels continue to drop rapidly and desperate pleas to save water ring out from leaders, Yangan is the sole community restricting water usage to 120L of water a person each day.

The town's water-saving success is due to individual efforts, but also a desire to help those around them.

Kerrie Baker, who lives at Merindah Farm, about five minutes' drive from the Yangan township, works to conserve every drop on the property.

Relying on tank water for their personal water usage, the family has installed a grey water septic tank to redirect recycled water to their garden, turfed their dishwasher and resolved not to take baths.

In the middle of last year, Mrs Baker spent two months handwashing clothes, sheets and towels, after they discovered their rainwater tank level had plummeted to 5000L.

They now have a new washing machine that uses just 57L a wash compared to 120L, which is the equivalent of one person's entire day's water usage under extreme water restrictions.

Mrs Baker said they had continuously invested in rainwater tanks whenever they could to capture as much "liquid gold” from the sky as possible.

"It costs money but it's a really long-term venture doing that,” she said.

"The dam isn't in a position for everyone to be buying water, it's not feasible for us to use all our water and then go and buy water.”

Water consumption levels for Southern Downs towns for March 2019.
Water consumption levels for Southern Downs towns for March 2019. Southern Downs Regional Council

Yangan Hotel Motel owner Kylie Friend has also been doing her bit to conserve water.

The team catches condensation from the cold room to put on the garden and waits until the glass-washing trays are full before turning on the dishwasher.

"We're all pretty water conscious,” Mrs Friend said.

"The no rain is on people's mind, they're doing it pretty tough on the land.”

The March 2019 data showed for the second month in a row Yangan had the lowest consumption in the region, while other towns continue to far exceed targets.

Southern Downs Regional Council data from March 2019 showed Warwick usage at an average of about 170L per person each day, while Stanthorpe residents are using 255L.

Allora and Wallangarra residents limited their usage to a little above 120L.

Southern Downs councillor Rod Kelly said it was concerning to see some continue to use water excessively despite the urgency of the situation.

"If you get a community that can manage that, and two communities that are close to it, why can't everybody do that?” Cr Kelly said.

"I think there's really an urgency here now in terms of the use of water and people need to take a leaf out of Yangan's book.

"They're obviously a community that cares. They're obviously understanding what's required.”

TIMELY RELIEF: 50% rebate to help those in the Western Downs.
Residents are being urged to stick to the limit of 120L per person per day. Ablestock.com

Cr Kelly said with an enduring "horrendous” drought and heading into winter, residents needed to respect the restrictions.

"If these current water levels continue then it places the entire region in a real issue,” he said. "It's a basic right to be able to turn the tap on and get water, but the water reserves are running low.

"At the end of the day there has to be harsher restrictions if people don't adhere to it.”

Cr Kelly said the council had a water strategy in place and had been spending time investigating water levels in bores in the region.

Mrs Baker said she was proud of Yangan residents for honouring their water targets, but also continuing to be a warm community that looked out for each other.

"We share a pipeline between our neighbours and ourselves so if one runs short, we ask if we can use the water while we fix it,” she said.

"I come from a small town and I tend to think that people in a small town are very conscious of resources and what they have.”