Canberra could face water restrictions next year if drought continues, Icon warns

Lachlan Roberts 25 October 2019 129
Cotter Dam

Cotter Dam. Photo: Supplied by Icon Water.

Icon Water has warned Canberrans that water restrictions could be enforced as soon as next year if the dry weather continues.

According to Icon Water’s annual report, the current drought conditions may end up worse than the Millennium Drought, as the territory’s dam levels fell from 84.2 per cent to 56.5 per cent over the past two years.

The annual report said last financial year was the worst on record for inflows and the last 24 months the second-worst. While Icon said their source water system is secure, water restrictions will be required if the ACT continues to experience the severe drought.

On 30 June 2019, Canberra’s combined dam capacity was only 56.5 per cent of the total 278 GL volume, a significant drop from the 69 per cent capacity recorded on 30 June 2018.

Once Canberra’s dam levels reached 35 to 40 per cent, water restrictions will be enforced.

“Climate forecasts are predicting a high likelihood of dry conditions continuing during spring 2019,” the report read. “If inflows do not increase during 2020, the current drought could develop into a worse drought than the Millennium Drought. If this occurs, water restrictions could be required as early as the end of 2020.

“This has also resulted in a material reduction of inflows into our storage dams, and balancing and active management of our water storages have been a priority.”

While the enlargement of the Cotter Dam has staved off a need for restrictions, Icon said it is preparing for further dry weather by promoting water savings and reminding the community of their obligations to conserve water to ensure demands are minimised.

In fact, Icon Water said the Cotter Dam has been the primary source of water this year and without it the region would already have had water restrictions in place. But to preserve storage, Icon has already begun sourcing water from more expensive sources.

“We have a unique responsibility to manage our precious water resources, for now and generations to come,” the report said. “This, in turn, provides a unique opportunity to drive positive change in our community.

“To this end, we will continue to promote Canberra’s permanent water conservation measures, which provide the community with a set of common-sense rules around water use in the home, garden and work.”

The Bureau of Meteorology said November to January rainfall is expected to be below average for much of southern and eastern Australia, while daytime temperatures are very likely to be above average across Australia for the remainder of 2019 and into early 2020.

Canberra’s rainfall over the summer months is expected to be below average. Image: Supplied by BOM.


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129 Responses to Canberra could face water restrictions next year if drought continues, Icon warns
Daniel Lesky Daniel Lesky 8:15 pm 02 Nov 19

Put them in place now

Evan Williams Evan Williams 2:31 pm 02 Nov 19

So we keep populating beyond the water supply and Friday becomes bath day just like the old days in the mother that what we aspire to? Oh except the rich and powerful they will have unlimited supply.

Juzzy Richards Juzzy Richards 12:02 pm 02 Nov 19

Rains every week where is the water going

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 3:00 pm 02 Nov 19

    I record the rain, and no it doesn't rain every week where I live in Canberra.

Snez Vujic Snez Vujic 5:05 pm 31 Oct 19

They should be implemented now before its too late- but alas, they won’t ‘cos that’s not how they roll

Karyn Wild-Edwards Karyn Wild-Edwards 12:27 pm 31 Oct 19

As everyone is saying, why wait until it's super low?? Just do it now to try and preserve what's left...

Capital Retro Capital Retro 7:21 am 31 Oct 19

Some people are boasting how they have harvested water and their domestic tanks are full. This is water that should have found its way into the river system and ultimately to the irrigators producing food in the MIA.

Still feel good about that do you?

    qprc1 qprc1 2:31 am 18 Jan 20

    That harvested water is only a tiny fraction of the total rainfall that ends up in the Molonglo river and would have virtually zero impact on irrigators downstream. Anyway if they use it for flushing toilets, which is a big water user, it still ends up in the Molonglo.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 2:59 pm 30 Oct 19

“Why don’t the cotton farms move to northwest Australia”?

Well, they have tried it in the past and it is now being tried again with crops resistant to pests.

It could be a long term success but all that is required now is for the water wasted for feel-good environmental flow to be used. Is it not as if all inland rivers in Australia have not dried up before settlement, you know. It’s a natural occurrence.

Benny Franc Benny Franc 9:26 am 30 Oct 19

If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.


Evelyn M Pond Evelyn M Pond 8:23 pm 29 Oct 19

Why don’t the cotton farms move to northwest Australia which has monsoon rains dumping loads of fresh water every year? Why is it taking us so long to decide to plant trees to combat climate change like other countries, eg ireland? Why didn’t we build a series of dams along the southeastern rivers years ago?

Joel Bulger Joel Bulger 12:48 pm 29 Oct 19

It should be now

Kane Orr Kane Orr 5:03 pm 28 Oct 19

If we take the last drought as an example it takes at least 12 months to change peoples habits. Do it now...!!!

Marcia Gerrey Marcia Gerrey 2:56 pm 28 Oct 19

We got them here Rachel .

Rachel Jabs Rachel Jabs 2:30 pm 28 Oct 19

Hamish Laburn no more lawn

    Samantha Miranda Samantha Miranda 5:45 pm 29 Oct 19

    Rachel Jabs just photoshop it in like the real estate did 💁‍♀️

Dave Payne Dave Payne 2:10 pm 28 Oct 19

We would be smart to introduce water restrictions now and be proactive. When we last had water restrictions as a territory we acclimatise quickly only to see them taken away as soon as rain came back. Very silly!

Melissa Wells Melissa Wells 1:29 pm 28 Oct 19

Lyle - time to get our water tanks fixed!

    Lyle Wells Lyle Wells 5:19 pm 28 Oct 19

    Melissa Wells tanks are full mate! They work great. It's getting the water out I have issues with

    Melissa Wells Melissa Wells 5:20 pm 28 Oct 19

    Lyle Wells that's what I meant bruh

Tom Gulliford Tom Gulliford 12:34 pm 28 Oct 19

Stop geoengineering and the rain will return simple

Lesley Malcolm Lesley Malcolm 10:54 am 28 Oct 19

We were told plenty of water for 50 years after the hight of Cotter dam wall was raised.

Luke Juratowitch Luke Juratowitch 8:23 pm 27 Oct 19

So lets stop the NSW state government from allowing water to be diverted to fill the dams of foreign owned cotton and coal mines, let alone the fracking industry getting a good portion of it also.

This isn't a totally natural drought, it was voted for sadly. Things wouldn't be so bad if we weren't diverting water to the above mentioned.

Joy Laidlaw Joy Laidlaw 8:16 pm 27 Oct 19

We do have permanent water restrictions in place now. Spring summer and autumn garden sprinklers after 6.00pm and before 9.00am, no hosing down paved areas etc.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:43 pm 27 Oct 19

As many others have said, we should already have restrictions. We should also have a reasoned awareness and education campaign.

Delaying until next year will, of course, forestall revenue losses. It will also make it easier for a tired government to make a lot of noise about perilously low dam levels as further proof of a “climate crisis” and that “only they” have a solution (because imported electric buses will make it rain over our catchment areas).

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