SYDNEY - Senior government ministers in Australia begin Wednesday a three-day tour of towns on the brink of running out of water in drought-hit areas in the eastern part of the nation.
Authorities are racing to get emergency water supplies ready for the town of Stanthorpe in the Australian state of Queensland, where reservoirs are expected to run dry within two months.
The community, 220 kilometers from Brisbane, is one of the stops for two senior government ministers — Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Water Minister David Littleproud — who are starting a three-day tour of drought-affected regions in eastern Australia.
Two emergency water tanks are being installed in Stanthorpe. They will be supplied by 50 truckloads that will be transported 70 kilometers every day at a cost of more than 500,000 U.S. dollars. Residents are living under some of Australia’s toughest water restrictions and are limited to 100 liters each per day.
“Water is like gold," says local mayor Tracy Dobie. "I think that is the way we look at water now. This has been a hard lesson, but it has been a really valuable lesson for us to learn in regard to how we use water.”
Rainfall in August was below average for much of eastern Australia, and more warm, dry conditions are forecast for the months ahead. Most of the nation’s most populous state, New South Wales, is under drought conditions, as are large parts of Queensland.
The Victorian government Wednesday announced $20 million U.S. dollars in aid for drought-hit farmers in the driest parts of the state. Federal financial assistance is also available.
Australia is the world's driest inhabited continent. Last summer was the hottest ever recorded.
Conservationists say climate change is likely making drought conditions in southwestern and southeastern Australia worse.