RUNNING ON EMPTY: Mishaela Simpkins, from Mullumbimby Creek, stands beside her twin 20,000 litre tanks that are all but empty due to the drought.
RUNNING ON EMPTY: Mishaela Simpkins, from Mullumbimby Creek, stands beside her twin 20,000 litre tanks that are all but empty due to the drought. Christian Morrow

PRICE GOUGING: Water crisis deepens as demands soar

WATER is the stuff of life and as the drought drags on there is less of it about.

For many who rely on tank water the situation is becoming dire with water carting businesses scrambling to meet demand and parched residents enduring long waits for expensive water deliveries.

Mishaela Simpkins, of Mullumbimby Creek, has the means to pay a premium to get water but worries others are going without or facing extreme delays.

So concerned is Mishaela at the state of play she contacted local solicitor Mark Swivel from Barefoot Law to initiate discussions with council aimed at speeding up the delivery of water across the Shire.

"I have a growing number of clients concerned about access to water and the rising cost of water across our region," Mr Swivel wrote.

"Obviously the root cause of the problem lies in treating water as a commodity that is traded in markets when 'the stuff of life' should not be treated like other commodities."

Mr Swivel also asked what plans were in place if the water crisis continues to deepen.

Ms Simpkins said she has spent $1250 in the last four months "when generally I've paid $250 for a delivery of 13,500 litres".

"Late last week I called 14 water carters, most didn't answer. One said they could deliver 5000 litres the next evening for $300 cash."

Two water carters Byron Shire News spoke to said the level of demand for water was currently beyond description.

The drivers said prices of water delivered depended on location. Starting from the Bangalow fill point, a delivery to Wilsons Creek was far more expensive than a delivery to Newrybar.

Both agreed there were not enough licensed carriers to meet current demand.

Ms Simpkins has asked the council if she would be able to cart her own water from Rous water filling points but has been told no.

Andrew Logan, from Rous County Council, said even if citizens had a permit from the council, "this would not change the situation. Our water filling stations (draw) from a bulk supply for commercial water carters".

"However, Rous and the constituent councils of Lismore, Byron and Richmond Valley are looking at options to address this," Mr Logan said.

Earlier this month Mullumbimby went on to level three water restrictions with the situation likely to worsen across the region.

Mr Logan said Rous water was likely to impose level one restrictions across the region by the end of the month with Rocky Creek Dam predicted to drop to 70% capacity.

Unlike the rest of the shire Mullumbimby is supplied by the Laverty's Gap Weir. There is also a pipeline connecting Ocean Shores to Mullumbimby capable of delivering a megalitre per day.

This is cold comfort to Ms Simpkins with three 20,000 litre tanks, one dedicated to fire fighting, all empty except one containing a limited quantity of drinking water.



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