Mendooran, where families survive on two loads of washing a week and three minute showers
Could you bathe your kids in three minutes? The Draper family of Mendooran are struggling with Level 6 water restrictions — the toughest in the state. (ABC: Jennifer Browning)
Many of us turn on the tap without thinking, but for the Draper family, the simple task is a luxury.
Susan Draper and her five children live in Mendooran, 70 kilometres north-east of Dubbo in western New South Wales.
It is a town of 500 people that is about to run out of water.
Since January, the town has been on level six water restrictions — the highest possible in the state.
That means residents are forced to limit showers to three minutes, and can only do two loads of washing a week.
Baths must be run to a depth of just 10 centimetres and evaporative cooling systems can only be turned on after 6pm.
For a large family, it is tough going.
“You do one load of washing at the start of the week and one at the end of the week,” Ms Draper said.
“Everything else just waits.”
Susan Draper is restricted to two loads of washing a week — no easy task for mum of five school children. (ABC: Jennifer Browning)
A crisis looms large
The rapid evaporation of the Castlereagh River over the past two years is the root cause of the tiny town’s water woes.
The river pool Mendooran’s water is pumped from is running dangerously low and the town’s emergency bore water supply cannot be used at the moment because of blue-green algae contamination.
If there is no significant rain in the coming month, the town will run out of water.
“We won’t survive,” Ms Draper said.
“There’s nothing here, the rivers are dry — it’s sad.”
Claims crisis has been mismanaged
With so much of the state in drought residents feel their town has been forgotten, and say their cries for help have gone unanswered.
“The community has done more for us than council, it is upsetting,” Ms Draper said.
Residents warned the council of water issues long before extreme water restrictions were introduced, according to Ms Draper.
Another local, Cliff Carter, also feels that the situation has been mishandled.
“[The council] needed to inform us a lot earlier and introduce the restrictions a lot slower,” Mr Carter said.
“That way we could have been saving water for longer.”
Government to fund contamination study
This week the NSW Government announced a $95,000 grant for Mendooran under its Safe and Secure Water Program.
The grant will fund a study into the causes of the town bore’s contamination and pressure issues.
Mendooran’s water crisis ramped up in January when its emergency bore water supply became contaminated. (ABC: Jessie Davies )
“We’ve had a lot of supply challenges through the drought and as a state government our job is to support those water utilities,” Regional Water Minister Niall Blair said.
But Mr Carter wants action, not a study.
“Fix it now — it’s that simple,” he said.
But Warrumbungle Regional Shire Councillor Peter Shinton defended the council.
“People forget that we’re still in a drought and we’re doing our best to supply potable water, and I think we’re being quite successful.”
‘A third world problem’
Hundreds of bottles of water have been donated to the township of Mendooran since the crisis worsened last month.
For residents like Russell Buchanan, the donated water has been a God-send.
“I don’t drink the tap water here and neither does my son,” Mr Buchanan said.
“With the heat and the dust, we’re really being slammed out here.”
Russell Buchanan likens Mendooran’s water situation to that of a third world country. (ABC: Jessie Davies)
Mr Buchanan and his eight-year-old son relocated from Beijing to Mendooran two years ago.
He has been appalled with the town’s water quality and security issues.
“I lived in Beijing for 10 years,” he said.
“They fixed their water problems, so why can’t we?
“It is a third world problem we’re facing.
“We really should be given the courtesy of clean water.”
While many of Mendooran’s residents are crying foul, Mr Carter recognises how unprecedented the current drought is.
“We live on flat ground — it’s like a tennis court out here,” he said.
“You can’t make water run down a hill if you haven’t got a hill.”
Only rain will save the day, he said.