Meet The Man Bringing Water To Desperate Farmers

"They’re struggling … how much longer can they hold on for?"

When Chris Cranfield drives onto properties that he used to roam as a child, he sees the cattle first. Once healthy cows are rearing thin, as feed and water runs dry.  

Then, as his truck heaving 15,000 litres of drinking water pulls in, he sees the smiles on farmers’ faces.

“They’ll always come up to you, shake your hand and thank you," he told ten daily.

"But they’re struggling.” 

Chris Cranfield is seeing the properties he used to roam as a child turn desperately dry. Image: Emma Brancatisano

Cranfield is a water carter and has been supplying commercial farms for about five years. Now, the father-of-three is delivering about 250,000 litres of donated water each day to drought-affected farmers in Wollondilly and Camden, on the outskirts of Sydney.

For some, this is fresh water to clean a dairy after a milking. For others, it means a shower and flushing toilet. A lifeline.

“Each time you go, you see the conditions change and the water levels dropping ... how much longer can they hold on for?

“It’s heartbreaking.”

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A crippling drought is setting in across the country. Image: Getty

Teaming up with local charity group ‘Dilly Drought Drive’, Cranfield, his wife and team at Theresa Park Water Carriers began donating whole truckloads of water to farms not connected to mains water.

As dry conditions beat down on the community -- as well as virtually all of New South Wales and across the country’s east -- demand grew and they agreed to sell the water at a discounted rate. It is then donated to farmers for free. 

“At the moment, we have trucks leaving at four o’clock in the morning and getting home at 11 o'clock that night,” he said.

Cranfield's truck leaves his home in Mount Hunter. Image: Emma Brancatisano
His services are in high demand as the conditions worsen. Image: Emma Brancatisano

“We are flat out. I’ve had to put extra drivers on to manage the fatigue and to try and service as many farmers as we can,” he said.

The drop starts at a single water main, where Cranfield taps into Sydney's water supply.

“When you turn your tap on at home, it’s exactly the same. The only difference is there are water mains on every street,” he said.

READ MORE: Turnbull Announces $190m In Emergency Drought Relief 

Joining Cranfield on a water drop, he tells ten daily the situation is 'heartbreaking'. Image: Emma Brancatisano

The water is then transferred into farmers’ household water tanks -- not their dams, due to high evaporation rates.

“I think these donations are a bit of relief in their pockets,” he said.

At time of writing, the Cranfields' business is making deliveries to three dairy farms, two beef farms and an orchard in the local area.

A single water main taps into Sydney's water supply. Image: Emma Brancatisano

And demand is only growing. With every one truckload, he said he is booking five more.

“Most of them are fourth or fifth-generation farmers. They’ve been here for a long time. I’ve heard talk that if it gets any worse, they’re going to pack up and call it a day,” he said.

One drop is particularly personal for the father-of-three, as he pulls into the Biffin family’s dairy farm where he once worked as a child.

“I used to help out here -- it was my first job when I was 13,” he said.

READ MORE: How You Can Help Drought-Stricken Farmers

Cranfield's truck rolls into a property he once used to work on as a 13-year-old. Image: Emma Brancatisano

“I grew up around all of these farms and they taught me a lot.

"For me, this is all a little heartbreaking.”

If you want to help Australian farmers in need, you can donate to a registered charity. Donate online to Rural Aid's Buy a Bale, Drought Angels, Aussie Helpers or Lions' Need for Feed. You can also support farmers by buying Australian grown produce at your local supermarket.

Contact the author at ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au.