Home-owners stranded by floods in Sackville, northwest of Sydney, got some timely help when the Rapid Relief Team deployed a water pumping system usually enlisted to help fight bushfires to help them get back to their properties.

The Rapid Relief Team’s Rapid Water Systems initiative was used to pump massive amounts of water from flooded properties into the Hawkesbury River at Sackville, northwest of Sydney.

The Rapid Water System (RWS) was originally developed by the Aussie charity RRT at a cost of nearly half a million dollars to make previously inaccessible water in remote locations available for emergency services by pumping it to a central staging area for use by fire trucks and aerial bombers.

The RRT specialist team send in a pump by helicopter, tractor or crane to a water source usually not accessible to trucks, and pump tens of thousands of litres into a frac tank.

The RWS then pumps this water into fire trucks at the same time with the ability to fill about 19 firetrucks from a single tank.

But as the flood waters cut off Sackville residents from their homes this month, the RRT decided to get creative and use the RWS to send the rising waters back to the Hawkesbury River.

Over 17 days, the RWS pumped a massive 34.7 million litres of water back into the river – roughly the equivalent of about 15 Olympic swimming pools.

“Power couldn’t be reconnected to these people’s homes until the power poles were free of water, so the Rural Fire Service asked for RRT’s support,” said RWS Western Area Manager Nelson Clark.

“We moved the RWS pump system into place and just kept it going until we were able to clear those properties and roads so those people could go home. They had to use canoes to get back into their properties and rely on generators up the hill for power until the electricity could be put back on.

“We’re really happy that the RWS is not only able to help brave volunteers fight bushfires, but now we know it can also be used successfully to help out in flood emergencies.”