Water problems heighten as dam level drops below halfway mark
THE Lockyer Valley and Somerset regions have marked the beginning of Winter with a grim milestone, as the water level in Wivenhoe Dam has once again dropped below 50%.
Winter is traditionally the driest part of the year, and with drought, bushfires, and now COVID-19 hammering residents and farmers alike, this winter is set to be even more difficult than most.
Somerset and Wivenhoe dams are the largest bodies of water in the SEQ Water Grid, and have not recovered from consecutive poor wet seasons.
Wivenhoe Dam remains at its lowest levels since the Millennium Drought broke in early 2009, and its water level is significantly lower now that it was this time last year.
In the space of a month, Wivenhoe Dam’s water level has dropped from 51.4% on May 1 to 49.5% on May 29.
More worryingly, more than half of this reduction took place in just one week, with the water level decreasing by 0.95% from the 50.2% level recorded on May 22.
The swift decrease comes despite a number of measures being taken by Seqwater to supplement the dam’s water supply.
The Gold Coast Desalination Plant is cycling additional water into the system, and Seqwater is currently operating the SEQ Water Grid to move water from the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast dams to supplement water supply for Brisbane.
“We are continuing to optimise the operation of the SEQ Water Grid to best preserve our larger water storages, including Wivenhoe Dam, but we need to the community’s help to slow the drawdown on our dams,’’ Seqwater Chief Executive Officer Neil Brennan said.
“There are simple and commonsense ways we can all save water while maintaining our strict hygiene practices required to combat COVID-19.”
The overall combined water grid has also gradually reduced over the past month, from 66.7% on May 1 down to 64.9% on May 29.
When the combined water grid level drops below 60% – which will likely occur before the end of the year without rain – Seqwater will implement a drought response plan.
The response plan, which was previously brought into effect in November 2019, strongly encourages residents and businesses to reduce their water usage, but does not include mandatory water restrictions, only voluntary recommendations.
Water restrictions will not need to be considered unless dam levels fall below 50% capacity.
The full Seqwater drought response plan can be found here.