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Byron Shire
November 28, 2021

Mullum facing critical water shortage as restrictions fail to bite

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Average daily water consumption in Mullumbimby has not fallen at all despite the introduction of water restrictions, Byron Council says.

Council’s director of infrastructure services and its acting general manager, Phil Holloway, said the daily water use remained at around 270 litres of water per person per day, even though level four water restrictions have been in place for more than two weeks.

The target for the region is 160 litres per person per day.

Unlike the rest of the Byron Shire, which gets its water from the Rocky Creek dam via Rous County Council, Mullumbimby is serviced by Laverty’s Gap – a relatively small catchment in Wilson’s Creek.

Owing to this specific supply running very low, the town has moved up to level four water restrictions while the rest of the Shire has been on level 1 restrictions.

Yet, despite these increased restrictions, which include no watering of gardens, lawns, washing cars, driveways etc, and essential use of showers, taps, toilets and washing machines; there has been no reduction in water use.

The situation is now approaching critical levels.

‘Since November [when water restrictions were introduced] the average water consumption per person in Mullumbimby hasn’t really diminished,’ Mr Holloway said.

‘The water supply into Laverty’s Gap [Mullumbimby’s water supply] is roughly 0.5 mega litres a day, but water consumption in Mullumbimy is roughly 1 mega litre a day.’

‘That’s obviously a pretty dire situation.’

Mr Holloway urged those in the community who were not limiting their water use to start doing so immediately.

‘We need to really get out there and educate the community about what we need to do, and to emphasise the importance of doing it,’ he said.

‘We need to start knocking on doors, perhaps doing a pop-up [stall] in town.

‘We need people to recognise that water is a precious resource.’

He said that Council had activated the Rous emergency water line – a pipe that connects to part of Mullumbimby from the Main Rous County Council water supply.

This was currently balancing out the usage in the town, but could not be guaranteed as a long or even medium term solution.

‘Rous County Council already has responsibility for providing supply to the rest of the Byron Shire along with Lismore, Ballina and Evans Head,’ Mr Holloway said.

‘We can’t draw on their supply indefinitely.’

‘The next step is to introduce level 5 restrictions. Obviously we’re not there yet, but if we don’t reduce our consumption and we don’t get any rain then that will become the option.

Level 5 restrictions are emergency level restrictions, and can involve limiting supply to homes and businesses.

Measures that locals can take to reduce water consumption include:

* Making sure your washing machine or dishwasher is full before use

* No more than one short shower per day

* Limiting toilet flushes

* Turning off or fixing dripping taps, especially before going on holidays

* Recycling water as much as possible

Mr Holloway said council had not been cruising the streets looking to those breaching water restrictions, but was considering increasing its compliance activities.

‘It’s normally an honesty system. We haven’t got the water police out there.

‘But if you see someone who’s blatantly breaching the restrictions we encourage you to report it to council.’

Byron Council itself has significantly reduced its water consumption and increased its use of recycled water.

‘We’ve increased our recycled water use from one mega litre to two mega litres,’ Mr Holloway said.

‘That’s being done through using recycled water in our toilet facilities, road works and irrigation operations.

Of additional concern is the increased use of water by tourists visiting the Shire.

‘People are a bit more relaxed about things like water use when they’re on holidays,’ Mr Holloway said.

‘We need to get the message out there so that people know it’s an issue and to be really careful.’

• This story initially incorrectly stated that Clarie Hill dam, not Rocky Creek dam, as the water source for most of the region.

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  1. Up here in Huonbrook we have been extremely conscious of every drop of water we use since September.

    . Our creeks are barely running as more and more residents use the creeks for domestic use. Its time this was rectified, creeks are habitat for many creatures.

    Water tanks should be compulsory on every roof regardless where the dwelling is.

  2. Has Council checked their pipes for leakage? The grass between the road and my front border is just so lush that it was difficult to mow. Inside my border, I don’t have grass, I have cornflakes!!

  3. It’s alright ! they will figure it out when the water’s gone. This is just an extension of Federal Governments attitude to resources, just keep flogginit until all hell breaks loose, then move to Hawaii.
    Cheers for the ‘status quo’ G”)

  4. So how many properties are pumping water directly out of Wilson’s Creek to fill their tanks atm? That’s where I’d start door knocking! Pretty sure if Council asked to see the receipts for water deliveries in that area for past month they would get to the bottom of it.

  5. Its Not hard to see why the water level usage hasn’t dropped since level 4 restrictions. We have had an influx of thousands of tourist for the festive season.

  6. Accross from the the Mullumbimby Co-op is a valve, this valve controls the volume of water from the reservoir. By simply closing the valve slighty you lessen consumption in Mullumbimby, the only difference is a slight drop in water pressure. No one has mentioned this valve, the water operators use to use it. Is it still in use?


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