NSW drought: Dams drying up due to below average rain

LOW LEVEL: Chifley Dam's level might have increased slightly thanks to recent rains, but it remains way down on its level from one year ago. Photo: PHIL BLATCH
LOW LEVEL: Chifley Dam's level might have increased slightly thanks to recent rains, but it remains way down on its level from one year ago. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

CHIFLEY Dam’s water level may be at an 11-year low, but recent rains have led to a slight boost in capacity.

As of Tuesday, the water level sits at 58.9 per cent, with a Bathurst Regional Council spokeswoman confirming this is a six per cent increase on a few weeks ago.

While the level has increased, it remains significantly down on one year ago when the dam was 89.8 per cent full.

“Council will continue to monitor levels closely and encourages residents to be waterwise throughout the year, irrespective of dam level,” the spokeswoman said.

Chifley was not the only dam to experience a decline in water level during the past 12 months, with WaterNSW confirming to Fairfax Media that every other dam it manages in the Central West had also declined.

​Burrendong Dam may be one of the largest inland dams in the state, and three times the size of Sydney Harbour, but in the past 12 months its capacity has dropped from 81 per cent to 31 per cent.

This drop is the equivalent of 581 gigalitres (581,000 megalitres) less water than a year ago.

Council will continue to monitor levels closely and encourages residents to be waterwise throughout the year, irrespective of dam level.

Bathurst Regional Council spokeswoman

Burrendong Dam is the water source for residents and businesses in Dubbo, Wellington and Narromine. Water restrictions are in place for Narromine.

Carcoar Dam, which supplies water to Blayney, has also had a significant drop in its capacity during the past 12 months – from 91 per cent full in September last year to 67 per cent full this month.

This 24 per cent decline means there is now nine gigalitres less available water.

While the water level at Wyangala and Oberon dams have both dropped by 31 per cent compared to a year ago, from 88 per cent to 57, and 85 per cent to 54 respectively.

Water restrictions are in place in Forbes and Parkes which both use water from Wyangala Dam.

Burrinjuck Dam has also dropped – from 59 per cent capacity to 41 per cent during the past year, while Windamere has fallen from 49 per cent to 40.

The water supply in Orange comes from two dams – Suma Park and Spring Creek.

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Currently, the water level in the dams is 47.1 per cent and 81.0 respectively, which is down compared to one year ago when it was 75.9 per cent and 94.2.

Orange City Council corporate and community relations manager Nick Redmond said the stormwater harvesting holding dam was at 97 per cent capacity, with a full capacity of around 220ML.

“It’s currently pumping about 6.5ML a day into Suma Park Dam. Coupled with the Macquarie Pipeline, we’re pumping about 18ML per day into the dam in total,” he said.

“The amount taken out of the dam to service the city’s water supply needs is about 12 ML per day.”

Mr Redmond said council’s modelling showed the city should be able to remain on level two water restrictions for the rest of the year.

“If the water level drops below 50 per cent the policy is Orange would go to level three water restrictions, however it isn’t likely to happen soon,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Lithgow City Council run Farmers Creek Dam is at 100 per cent capacity and a council spokesperson said the dam is supplemented by treated mine water which is pumped in from the Clarence Colliery.