WATCH: Young water warrior thrown in the deep end
NOT being able to drink water from the tap may seem archaic in the 21st century but for hundreds of people near Tabulam, it was a reality they endured for the past eight months.
Until last Thursday, the people of Jubullum Village were left without clean drinking water when the supply's disinfecting system broke down in November, leaving the community to boil or buy their own drinking water.
During the arduous process of flying technicians up from Sydney to fix the ultra-violet disinfection system, one young indigenous woman stepped up to ensure the water quality was safe for other uses.
Only nine months into her job with Ecoteam, the agency who operates and maintains Jubullum's water supply and sewage systems, Alinta Hippi was thrown in the deep end.
The 28-year-old was tasked with dosing chlorine into the Rocky River pumping station to kill off any harmful bacteria or micro-organisms in the water.
She tested the chlorine concentration in the water and based on those tests she was able to work out how much of the chemical to add to the water supply.
Ecoteam chief executive, Keith Bolton said Alinta "single-handedly kept the water supply safe for everyone" just in case it was consumed.
"Without that on-ground support of Alinta, we really couldn't have guaranteed safe water for the community for such a long period of time," Dr Bolton said.
Her work was supported by Dr Bolton, who she affectionately called 'Doc', and water and sewage operations manager, Aaron Taylor.
Ms Hippi also door knocked houses in her community to provide information about the importance of avoiding drinking tap water while the machine was being fixed.
For Ms Hippi, doing the job was an "honour" to service her community that "took pride in their water".
Jubullum Local Land Council chairwoman, Joan Bell said it was great to stop having to buy or boil drinking water anymore.
Ensuring safety of the community's water supply was the last place Ms Hippi saw herself a few years back.
In and out of trouble with the law, Ms Hippi's sister offered to help her turn her life around and set her up with an interview Ecoteam.
And since then she has never looked back with Ecoteam now applying to nominate her for a young citizen of the year awards.
"Just because you had a bad streak in life once doesn't mean you're always going to go down that path," Ms Hippi said.
"I've went down the bad path and I changed my life so, you don't need money to change it.
"You've got the love and support of the community and you're family you can do anything."
Since Ecoteam were allocated to manage Jubullum's water supply by the State Government in 2009, Dr Bolton said the organisation, NSW Health and the Jubullum Local Aboriginal Land Council engaged in community consultations about cleaning water with chlorine.
"We have for a number of occasions been promoting the idea of a low level, chlorination system as a back up to their Ultra-Violet system that just failed too often," he said.
Unlike chlorine disinfection systems, Dr Bolton said UV light provided disinfection for the water entering the water mains but it was unable to disinfect water once moved through the water pipes.
After a number of boiled water alerts over the years as well as increased community education about chlorination, Dr Bolton said the community reversed its initial stance against chlorine in favour of a low level disinfectant system.
As of last Thursday, the community were able to drink water from the tap again after the final adjustments were made on the UV disinfection system and the new chlorination system installed last month.
Jubullum LALC chief executive Owen Trembath said it was "a really good outcome" for the tight-knit community.
"Water is a basic need and right so to have a healthy water supply for a large number of people is extremely important," he said.