WATCH EVERY DROP: Southern Downs hit by water thieves.
WATCH EVERY DROP: Southern Downs hit by water thieves. Warren Lynam

Theft on the rise as water becomes most valuable resource

WATER theft is on the rise as drought continues to ravage sought-after supplies across the Southern Downs.

Dozens of trucks and utes have been sighted carrying water up and down Glen Rd in Warwick, leading some residents to speculate whether water from the standpipe and water treatment plant was being taken illegally.

During a community meeting at Town Hall on Monday, the Southern Downs Regional Council was asked whether they truly have a grip on water movements in town.

Mayor Tracy Dobie said many of the vehicles seen carting water could have legitimate reasons to do so, with licenses to sell water or urban water trucks taking supplies out to rural residents.

But as water becomes a resource more valuable than gold, it becomes more likely for thieves to begin targeting water sources such as dams or rivers.

"We do know there has been water theft in the region," Cr Dobie said.

"It's disheartening, but it's happening, and we're doing everything we can to close down everything with council."

Cr Dobie said council had to close most park taps because of reports people were driving in to turn them on and supplement their private supply.

"Some people have even been taking from schools, and Eric Dr is another popular destination," council CEO David Keenan said.

There have also been two reported incidents of water theft on private property, according to councillor Marika McNichol.

"In the last couple of months I've heard of people going to properties and stealing from tanks and dams," she said.

"I know a lady who told me she had three loads of water delivered from tanks and put into a big tank, then afterward found out it was all emptied.

"I think it will continue because people get desperate and it's not good, but it happens."

Water manager Seren McKenzie said council relied on people to report suspected water theft.

"We can't be everywhere," she said.

"But if we see it, we crack down on it."

Southern Downs Residents Action Group president Peter Kemp said it was difficult to tell which trucks were acting legally and which ones were not.

"I believe I saw someone stealing out of the Condamine one day," he said.

"There was a white truck filling up near Scots Weir and I didn't think anything of it at the time but it didn't have a council sticker on it.

"They should all have a number on the side of them that's registered."

According to Cr McNichol, most legal tankers have signage on them to indicate who they are.

Council water infrastructure is protected with security cameras, and residents are encouraged to take precautionary measures to protect their own supply.

Lockable stop taps are available from the council to prevent unlawful access, with parts and labour costing a total of $100.

"People need to keep an ear out for unusual noises and check their water regularly," Cr McNichol said.

"Put a lock on the gate and put cameras up.

"Be vigilant."