Many Katherine residents are facing a water crisis as the dry season lingers, with a growing number of bores needing to be drilled deeper into a diminishing aquifer.
Bob Wright, a pump mechanic in Katherine, services on average one bore per month, but lately resident call outs have increased to almost five per week.
He says the water crisis has been building for the past three years.
The Top End has suffered a succession of poor wet seasons and property owners have failed to pay heed, he says.
"It is a crisis because of the lack of rain we have had and also due to the lack of thought about how much water is being used," Mr Wright said.
"People don't appreciate what they can't see, they turn on a tap and water comes out, but they need to think about where it is coming from."
The majority of Katherine's bores were drilled right after the historic 1998 flood, to a depth of about 30 metres.
The event saturated the aquifer, which is like a sponge that releases water as is needed.
Mr Wright said Katherine's rising population is putting pressure on water, and access is also becoming an issue.
"Since the late 80's I have noticed a drop in the water table, and that is really tied to when a lot of the infrastructure started going in," he said.
"The past couple of years have been worse because of the lack of general water.
It is the worst I have seen in 30 plus years.Bob Wright
"It is the busiest we have ever been in regards to bores needing to be fixed."
The NT Government's water assessment director, Des Yin Foo told the Katherine Times earlier in the year, the town's advantage was with the accumulation of about 20 years of good rain.
In September, the Katherine River's flow fell to just 2.4 cubic metres per second (at the same time last year it flowed at 4.1), but Mr Yin Foo said there is little chance of the Katherine River coming to a standstill.
The flow of the Katherine River is an important metric in determining the state of the groundwater in the region, he said.
"I am still comfortable that the Katherine River will maintain its flow until the end of the dry season and probably into the next dry season if we get no more rain," he said.
Mr Wright is not so confident.
"There are more and more people moving out to rural properties who think the water underground is limitless. A prime example is Stuart Estate where every five acre block has a bore.
"Add up the average house usage and irrigation it takes to keep a lot of those properties looking green and that is a lot of water."
Hopes of a good wet season have been dampened with predictions of a late start by the Bureau of Meteorology.
"The weather is unpredictable, it could be years before we get a good wet season to replenish the water table."
He says while it is not yet time to panic, it is time to be conservative.
His caution echos Mr Yin Foo's message.
"It is a dry time in the NT and we are hoping that will end by the end of the dry season," Mr Yin Foo said on September 2.
"But we can't control the weather, we're in the hands of God, I suppose, as far as recharge goes, but the message we need to get out is don't be too flippant about it.
"Katherine is a predictable area, we manage it through a plan, but we still rely on people's co-operation and spirit of community to only use the water they absolutely need.
"We don't know what the wet season is ahead of us. It will always pay to be conservative."
Mr Wright also recommended watering just once per week, and taking all of the usual precautions - a short shower, checking leaks and turning off taps.
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