WATER CRISIS: ‘It doesn’t get more dire than this’
"It doesn't get more dire than this."
As Bellingen Shire Council prepares for emergency talks on the escalating water crisis Mayor Dominic King has painted a grim picture.
An extraordinary meeting is being held on Wednesday to discuss the situation.
"We are certainly looking at a desalination plant and I'm expecting council will approve this as an immediate response - we're not going to wait," Cr King said.
"We've never seen flow rates as low as this."
He says the temporary desalination plant will most likely be hired at a cost of around $200,000 a month and is confident the State Government will contribute to the cost.
With significant rain not expected until possibly February, those costs will soon escalate.
"It could turn into a million dollars all up. We are asking the State Government to supply that funding and what we're hearing from them is they are certainly considering that.
"They have been doing it for other councils across the State so we're expecting they would contribute.
"We have an emergency management fund for disasters and it's my belief that this is certainly the result of 10 years of record high temperatures and the last three years of extremely dry conditions in Bellingen and that's the reason we declared a climate emergency because we could see some of these things happening."
The reverse osmisis desalination plant will be located just up stream on the Bellinger River from the sewerage treatment plant approximately a kilometre east of town.
Bellingen Shire is currently on Level 4 Water Restrictions and Cr King says it's highly likely these will be heightened to Level 5 as water levels drop (flow rate at the pumping station is currently 15 megalitres a day).
"There's still a reluctance from residents to accept how dire this situation is and this is going to be a very strong part of what we will be doing in the next few months.
"I live in the Upper Kalang and parts of the river have run dry there, and sections along the Bellingen River have also ceased to run above ground.
"This is uncharted territory. We don't know how long this is going to go for. I've heard talk of rain in February but they are long term perdictions."