Aussies to Slake Troop Thirst

WHILE President Bush is scouring the world for financial contributions to United States Gulf operations, a small Australian cooperative is contributing 20 tons of ``Plat-eau Mountain Drinking Water'' for the troops in the desert. The Norco Co-Operative Limited is sending 6,000 two-quart bottles of ``down under water'' to Saudi Arabia.

The water comes from a well in the Dorrigo mountains of New South Wales. ``It's very fresh,'' says Barry Murphy, marketing manager for Norco. ``The area is very mountainous and it does snow sometimes.''

The idea originated with some Vietnam veterans who wanted to contribute something to the effort in the Gulf.

``The veterans said those poor [blokes] have all the planes and guns but the biggest problem is they don't have water they know hasn't been fiddled with,'' Murphy says.

This sparked an idea: Murphy's company now plans to sell this brand of water overseas. Murphy says he did not think of it as simply a chance to get publicity.

``I'd do it without the publicity. At least a private company is showing that it supports the US. If someone invaded Australia, the Americans would be the first ones down to help us,'' he says.

Last month, Murphy wrote the US Army attach'e asking for help in transporting the water to the Middle East.

A spokesman for the US embassy says the offer is welcome and the US is working on an airlift: ``That's a lot of water.''

The troops in Saudi Arabia might be able to enjoy another Norco product if they get to travel down the Gulf. The Co-op, totally Australian-owned, manufactures ice cream for the Baskin Robbins chain, which sells the Down Under ice cream in Dubai.

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