Do not rely on water supply

Fire-affected Maryvale resident Gwyn Jordan says water supply is still no better than a “trickle” since last year’s Hernes Oak blaze.

“The water pressure… you can stop it with a finger over the hose it’s so bad,” Ms Jordan said.

When she decided to stay and defend her Old Melbourne Road property on that hot and blustery 7 February day, she did it without town water.

Luckily, she had a 10,000 gallon tank she kept operational for emergencies, which was used to fill CFA tankers.

She said someone from Gippsland Water informed her that she was responsible to have such reserves on her property, but she still could not understand why they directed water to main towns and not to rural areas where the fire was threatening.

“If they wanted to get more water out here, they could have,” Ms Jordan said.

“Why are we being charged so much for our water?

“We didn’t even have domestic water for anything else. We didn’t have water to have a shower.”

Her comments follow Gippsland Water’s statement advising “customers who may face bush or grass fires this summer that water supply cannot be guaranteed in an emergency”.

Gippsland Water general manager for customer services and communications Paul Clark said the Hernes Oak fire caused road closures restricting access to water treatment plants, a two-hour power outage as well as water pressure reduction due to peak demand.

“At peak times everybody in an area turns their taps on at once and there’s a likelihood that pressure goes down,” Mr Clark said.

“We don’t want people to solely rely on the drinking water supply to be their only source of water.

“There were no changes within water configurations during the fires last year. No priorities were given to any areas”

Mr Clark said the supplier’s preparations for the fire season included clearing around the water plant, keeping storage levels at a higher level and working closely with emergency services.

He also pointed to CFA advice on its website for fire safety on the farm.

“If you plan to stay and defend a building during a bushfire, take steps to establish a water supply of at least 10,000 litres (independent of the mains supply),” he said.

Mr Clark invited customers to contact Gippsland Water if they feel they have ongoing pressure issues.

Traralgon Fire Brigade officer in charge Peter Lockwood said during a bushfire, people should not rely on the telephone network, water supply, electricity and infrastructure could become damaged.

“People should be as self-sufficient as possible, have a battery operated radio if the power goes off, charge your mobile phone if your phone doesn’t work, and have a back-up water supply,” Mr Lockwood said