Still waiting to break drought

Published 2:32pm 21 December 2020

Still waiting to break drought
Words by Nick Crockford

We may be facing the wettest summer in a decade, but Seqwater’s dams, which supply the Moreton Bay Region, are still in a ‘drought response’ phase.

Despite recent rain, the collective drinking water supply level across South East Queensland’s dam system is below 60 per cent (58.5 per cent at the time of publication).

North Pine Dam is today (December 21) at 50.9 per cent of its current storage capacity of 108,985 megalitres (ML), Lake Kurwongbah 90.8 per cent of its 12,926ml capacity.

Lake Wivenhoe, Seqwater region’s largest water storage at 465,977ml, is at 40 per cent, its lowest level since the Millennium Drought broke in 2009.

Save every drop

As a result, Seqwater has teamed-up with water-service providers, such as Unitywater, to launch a water-saving campaign for the summer.

It will be on television, social media, radio and at venues such as shopping centres with tips on how we can save every drop.

“We need to receive more, consistent rainfall before runoff occurs and dam levels increase,” says an Seqwater spokesperson.

“Since it had been dry for such a long period this year, as soon as the rain hits the soil in our catchments it has been absorbed quickly, a bit like a dry sponge that soaks up water.”

Still waiting to break drought
North Pine Dam, one of the City of Moreton Bay's major water storage facilities.

Latest levels

It is estimated it would take between 60-80mm of rain to saturate the ground and generate run-off into North Pine Dam, which supplies much of the Moreton Bay Region’s water.

After that, it is likely to take another 100mm of rain before the dam’s gate operations are triggered.

The average daily water usage per person in the Unitywater region, which includes Moreton Bay Region, was 184 litres per person from December 13-20. In winter it is 169 litres per person.

Still waiting to break drought
North Pine Dam August 30 2013 87% full

Trigger point

“Water restrictions will not need to be considered unless dam levels fall below 50 per cent capacity,” says the Seqwater spokesperson.

“If South East Queensland experiences similar weather conditions to 2019, the 50 per cent trigger would not be reached until about February 2021.”

“There still needs to be significant rainfall events to see recovery and inflows into the catchment.

“La Niña typically increases the chance of above average rainfall across eastern Australia during spring and summer.”

Latest forecasts

The Bureau of Meterology says there is a “greater than 70 per cent chance” that January-March will be wetter than average in Queensland.

January will be “wetter than average” in eastern Queensland and there is a 75 per chance the next two weeks (December 21-January 3) will be wetter than average.

Seqwater has reviewed its emergency management, systems, assets, water quality, power and technology ahead of possible major weather events this summer.

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