25 October 2019

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

| Lachlan Roberts
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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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Capital Retro7:21 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?

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 Retro2:59 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.


HiddenDragon7:43 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).

Capital Retro10:59 am 27 Oct 19

What is the current inflow to LBG? If this drought goes on much longer the lake could dry up. The smell from the green algae would be replaced by the smell of rotting fish.

Capital Retro3:12 pm 26 Oct 19

Details of our heroic water restrictions are here: https://www.iconwater.com.au/pwcm

Capital Retro3:08 pm 26 Oct 19

“…..a drought tax imposed by Adelaide on visitors many years back…….”

In Canberra, something like that would kill the tourist industry so it won’t happen.

Water restrictions should start NOW.

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