This year, the Sunshine Coast almost ran out of water. It’s always been an issue, but we’re getting to the point where it’s no longer about watering lawns or plants—it’s impacting some of the sectors that the Coast relies upon.
Those who live in the area are more than familiar with the dry summers and the seemingly inevitable Stage 4 water restrictions that prohibit any outdoor tap use. Although Stage 4 is not an uncommon resort, 2021 proved to be exceptionally long, with restrictions severely affecting businesses—regardless of zoning or commercial farm status.
There was a temporary exception granted for farmers, but only for two weeks, which demonstrates the severity of the drought that the Sunshine Coast was facing. There were meetings to seriously consider a moratorium on new development and a halt to tourism, both of which are crucial to the Coast’s economy and to its flourishing.
The water crisis isn’t going away anytime soon. But it’s a polarizing issue, perhaps exacerbated by the advancing effects of climate change.
Duncan, a concerned resident who preferred not to give his last name, just experienced his third summer on the Sunshine Coast. “A lot of people come to the coast to live these more natural kinds of lifestyles and maybe support themselves,” he says. “A big part for me was that the Coast is a little bit of a step back in time to where kids play in the street, and people have gardens, and grow stuff, and you can look at insects—my kid loves bees.”
Duncan acknowledges that this isn’t necessarily the most crucial effect of the water crisis, but it’s worth considering that people spend their time and hard-earned money to invest in gardens. “I’m not a particularly wealthy person, I don’t have tons of money, but I do like to spend it to make my garden nice. And then, when you can’t water it, all that hard earned money just disappears, because you can’t look after it. And I find that really sad and a very frustrating part of living on the Coast.”
Residents, businesses and local governments alike are frustrated to no end as discussions turn into debates over water meters, real estate developments and new water sources, while the one thing everyone agrees upon stays constant—the Coast is running out of water and there will be serious repercussions if it continues. It’s no longer about whether residents can let the lawn “go golden,” it’s about food production, tourism and so much more.
Throughout the summer, many other emergency measures were also considered, such as a moratorium on new development. Remko Rosenboom, general manager of infrastructure for the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD), noted that, although the rate of development is relatively high, this measure would only apply to new applications—not those that were already in process or previously granted. “Not saying that it wouldn’t be an effective measure, but it…