Page last updated at 03:56 GMT, Monday, 7 December 2009

Emergency water delivered to Australia's dry Queensland

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

A farmer  walks through his barley field after his crop failed - 2006
Australians are being forced to change their water consumption habits

Emergency water supplies are being transported by road to communities in the northern Australian state of Queensland.

Fears are mounting that reservoirs are about to run dry, at the beginning of a long, hot summer.

One parched town west of Brisbane had just eight hours worth of water left before residents were forced to significantly reduce their consumption.

Weather forecasters have blamed extreme temperatures.

Water storage levels at reservoirs in Toowoomba, Queensland's biggest inland city, have fallen to 8.5%.

The big dry

A new pipeline that will carry supplies from the Wivenhoe Dam near Brisbane will not be ready until the New Year.

Fortunately, residents in Toowoomba have a natural insurance policy against such dry conditions.

Emergency bores have been drilled into the Great Artesian Basin, which is one of the world's largest underground lakes.

Other drought-hit communities in Queensland are relying on deliveries brought by water tankers as the situation worsens.

Supplies in the coal mining town of Blackwater, 825km (513 miles) north-west of Brisbane, have been reduced to a trickle.

Local motel owner, John McKenzie, says it has made life difficult.

"We got up this morning and went to shower and we didn't have enough water... and we had guests here in the same boat so it was pretty awkward to try and explain to them. They weren't happy.

"And I have a guy here putting a swimming pool in - they went to fill the pool up and it was just a black ooze came out of the pipe."

In recent days households in Dalby in central Queensland were told the town had only eight hours worth of water left.

There is likely to be little relief for many drought-hit regions in the months ahead with weather forecasters predicting a roasting summer for much of Australia, the world's driest inhabited continent.

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