The message is simple: we can't do anything about the weather, but we can all do something about saving water ... every single one of us in all corners of our shire's catchment.
Bellingen Shire mayor, Dominic King, said it really does not get any more serious.
"The rivers have stopped flowing upstream - we're in a really dangerous situation that is compounded by the fires plus coming up to Christmas holidays, we will have the added pressure of visitors," Cr King said.
"On that front, the community needs to share the message with their guests ... we'll be asking Camp Creative to do the same."
Water flow readings taken earlier today by council officers showed 1.83 megalitres (ML)/day flow at Thora with 5.1ML/day at the Never Never and 15.3 ML/day at Foster Gauging Station (closest to town).
Cr King repeated the message urging people to "stay smart and be water wise".
"This record-breaking drought highlights the importance of protecting our most precious of resources, clean drinking water.
"It needs to be at the top of everyone's list of priorities - it really is that urgent. People can't feel assured that a daily shower is possible."
We all need to remain vigilant with our water consumption and adopt an 'every drop counts' approach towards all water consuming activities.Bellingen Shire mayor, Dominic King
What is being done:
Behind the scenes Bellingen Shire Council has been working with the State Government to investigate future water security and produce an options report which will identify the most efficient, sustainable ways to secure our Shire's water supply.
In addition locally:
Secure yield analysis assessments are being undertaken to optimise the water, wastewater and storm water services operated by the Council. This will ensure maximum resilience to prepare us for the future challenges our ever-changing environment is presenting us with.
Water restrictions need to be adhered to:
As we head towards our third week on Level 4 Water Restrictions it's important to have a think about how we can reduce our own personal water consumption ... because if the water flow ceases at the Foster Gauging Station, or if saline intrusion is detected in the aquifers, Level 5 Emergency Water Restrictions will be introduced.
Level 4 restrictions:
BANNED - use of potable water outside, grey water use only.
BANNED - use of sprinklers, soaker hoses, buckets and hand-held hoses.
BANNED - washing of cars, filling of swimming pools or washing of house or driveways.
Worst case scenario:
Should that occur, the Shire's drinking water supply would transition to a temporary desalination plant.
The council has been working with DPI Water and the Regional Town water Supply Coordinator to secure State Government funding to subsidise the establishment of a portable desalination plant.
These funds in parallel with Council's own emergency funds will ensure our Shire has a secure water supply and if the current trend in declining river flows continues, our water supply will have transitioned to desalinated water by late January or early February next year.
Water usage monitoring:
If this occurs, Council will also increase its compliance and meter reading activities to actively monitor water usage to ensure everyone is strictly observing daily water usage targets as they are introduced.
Continuing low rainfall in our catchment areas and falling river levels means it's crucial that everybody in the catchment, including those not on a town water supply.
A few simple things that will help:
- Have a look around your own home to see if you have water efficient household appliances and fixtures installed.
- Check appliances like dishwashers and washing machines are set to eco-mode.
- Water efficient shower heads and taps are a great way to save on water consumption. If you haven't already done so, replacing them is simple and sometimes it's even possible to retrofit tap and shower heads with WELS 3 Star water flow restrictors.
- Check your toilet cistern for any leaks by putting a few drops of food colouring in the cistern to detect if you have leaky seals and washers because a slowly leaking cistern can waste up to 20,000 litres.
- With all your water-consuming appliances turned off, check your water metre and make sure the counter is not rolling over because if it is, you've probably got a leaky appliance or fixture and possibly a leaking pipe.
- Taking a shower for no longer than three minutes will also ensure you minimise your water usage. Collect the cold water that flows before the hot water arrives at the tap or shower head in buckets to reuse in your garden or wash your car windscreen or windows.