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.
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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.