Glen Innes is set to go to the highest level of water restrictions in just weeks, in the latest escalation of the worst drought in the town's history.
Both Glen Innes and Deepwater will upgrade water restrictions to level 5 on Wednesday January 1 after an urgent council vote last night.
The grim urgency motion was added to the Glen Innes Severn Council's agenda after the business paper was printed. It passed unanimously at last night's council meeting.
Councilors said the towns are running out of water, and they simply have no choice.
"I believe that level 5 water restriction is more than necessary given the unknown extent and continuation of this drought," said Cr Andrew Parsons.
He described the water supply as "fast dwindling"; the weir is currently almost empty, with the backup Eerindii ponds at 38 per cent full.
Glen Innes has been on water restrictions for 253 days, and is well on the way to doubling the previous record worst ever drought.
In a decision last night, councilors decided to require water carters to be licenced - and to not grant licences for carting water for stock. They said the move was necessary to better control water usage.
On level 5 restrictions watering your garden is banned, as is filling up swimming pools, washing pavements, public fountains and self-flushing toilets. Ready mix concrete is banned except with council sign off.
Nurseries, commercial flower gardens, market gardens and orchards will require council signoff.
These rules only apply to drinking water. Recycled water can still be carted for stock or used in other ways.
Councilor Jeff Smith asked council staff to begin a search for "other sources of water" and to report back.
He said he wanted "clarity" that the council wanted to strike a balance between keeping business going and maintaining the drinking supply.
"We want to support the community as a whole," he said.
Director of Infrastructure Services Keith Appleby agreed with him.
"It's certainly my view that while we must always ensure we maintain potable supply for our residents it's equally critical that we maintain our community," he said.
Water use remains at a relatively high level, with around 1.64 megalitres consumed every day. Mayor Carol Sparks told the Examiner last month the situation is "dire" and urged residents to cut back on water use.