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It may not be falling from the sky, but free water that drought-stricken farmers so desperately need is on the way.
About 25,000 litres of water arrived at a Southern Downs farm today as part of Water on Wheels by Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) and national transport company McColl’s. It marks the official start of the pilot program, which will see free non-potable water delivered to farms in Queensland and NSW.
The water can then be used by farmers to water their crops and livestock as they battle the drought.
Water on Wheels uses specially-treated recycled water left over from the brewing process at CUB’s Yatala plant, which brews about 400 million litres of beer a year and is Australia’s biggest brewery. The program will see recycled water delivered to farms located within 50 km of the Newell or Pacific highways in Queensland and NSW.
Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie said water deliveries would make an enormous difference to the region, which was drought declared in May 2018.
“This is the worst drought we have experienced in history,” Cr Dobie said. “We haven’t had rain for a couple of years, and it’s heart breaking to see the effect that is having on this region. The last real significant rain we had was in March 2017, and many people are doing it tough as a result.
“We really appreciate what CUB and McColl’s are doing to help people in our community.”
Dam levels in the region are very low with Stanthorpe expected to run out of water later this month and Warwick in August 2020 unless there is significant rain.
Fourth-generation farmer Greg Free and his wife Sue took delivery of 25,000 litres of water on their horse and cattle property at Womina, in Warwick, today.
“We’re down to about 40 head of cattle now, we’ve had to destock because of the lack of water,” Mr Free said. “Normally we’d run about 120 head of cattle, but with no water it’s too hard to keep them going. We also usually grow crops including barley, corn, sorghum and oats, but the drought has put a stop to that. It’s completely dry, there isn’t a blade of grass to be found, so this water will be a big help.”
Gerard and Trish Wren of Dalveen, about 40km south of Warwick, have also received a load of water.
Mr Wren said they had been forced to agist their cattle on another property while they tried to nurse them through the tough drought conditions.
The couple own 660 acres of land but because of the ongoing dry conditions they fear if things don’t change soon they may have to sell off potential breeding stock.
CUB’s Queensland Sales Director Mick McKeown said the water deliveries were just one of the small things they could do to help those in regional Queensland who were still battling through drought.
“We helped launch Water on Wheels because regional Australian communities like those in the Southern Downs have always supported us,” he said.
“We have the water and McColls has the transport network, so it makes perfect sense for us to focus some of our disaster relief efforts on an initiative like this.
“This is a trial run over the next couple of months as we work closely with Granite Belt Drought Assist and other organisations on the ground to identify farms who need this water and who are located within 50km of the Newell or Pacific highways.
“Water on Wheels has been created to deliver recycled water to farmers in need as we continue to support those Australian communities that have always supported us.”
McColl’s Group Business Development Manager Andrew Thompson said it was devastating to see how tough some families were doing it.
The bulk food grade division operates Australia’s largest fleet of tankers dedicated to transporting wine, beer, cider, fruit juices, chocolate, food oils, glucose, concentrates and a variety of other products.
It is these tankers which will be used to transport the water.
“We have hundreds of drivers travelling throughout Australia to farms every week to pick up milk supplies,” Mr Thompson said. “We have seen first-hand how dry many parts of Queensland and New South Wales are and the struggles that families on the land have to battle. McColl’s wants to do whatever it can to help these farmers until the rain comes.”
Granite Belt Drought Assist will help co-ordinate the farmers who receive the water.
Manager Glenda Riley said the water deliveries would make a huge difference to those who are living on the land.
“This program is going to make a big difference to farmers struggling to get by during this record drought,” she said.
“Having the opportunity to receive stock water, offers hope, allows the farmer to buy feed, put food on the table or pay some bills and a reprieve from the drought for a short time.
Water on Wheels is CUB’s latest disaster relief effort focused on supplying water. The Australian-first program saw around 120,000 cans distributed in its first 12 months, including to Townsville after the devastating floods and 25,000 cans to drought affected communities, including Warwick.
Farmers who want to find out more about Water on Wheels should contact [email protected].