Australian Towns Facing a Looming ‘Day Zero’ Crisis

July 22, 2019

Australian communities are staring down the barrel of what authorities dub “day zero” — a crisis threatening lives and livelihoods.

Almost a dozen towns across regional New South Wales and southern Queensland are staring down the battle of a crisis that’s been dubbed “day zero”.

It describes the looming risk of running out of drinking water, as the ongoing drought continues to wreak havoc for tens of thousands of Australians in dry communities.

Local Government NSW president Linda Scott said a number of regional cities and towns are preparing for a day zero that’s less than 12 months away, with some expected to face it within three to six months.

“And in some areas, it’s probably a matter of weeks,” Ms Scott told

“This is very serious. Carting water in trucks for hundreds of kilometres on dirt roads is going to be the only way some councils can provide drinking water to locals.”

This map shows the areas that have been deemed “high risk” when it comes to dwindling water supplies.

Tenterfield in the state’s north is at the epicentre of the crisis, with the town’s dam sitting at a precarious 32 per cent and a single bore struggling to supplement the supply.

“We pump that bore for two days and then give it a spell for a few days, to let it replenish, and in those two days, it puts roughly a day’s use back into the dam,” Tenterfield Shire Council Mayor Peter Petty said.

“I’m no mathematician but to me that’s going out the back. It won’t last.

“Our concern is that if the bore sh*ts itself, we’re buggered. It’ll be 200 days left of water and we don’t want that to happen.”

Just across the border in Queensland, Stanthorpe could reach its day zero by Christmas, with nearby Warwick at risk of running dry in 17 months’ time.

“This is the worst drought we’ve ever had in our region and it’s really biting hard,” Southern Downs Regional Council Mayor Tracy Dobie said.

“We haven’t had rain since March 2017. In the past, it rains here in summer. That hasn’t been the case for a while now.

“The issue we’re facing is the dams and creeks are all dry and so the inflows into our urban water storages have ceased.”

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