One of the Central West's largest dam systems is at single-digit storage levels as Orange City Council lauded its water-harvesting methods in the face of the ongoing drought.
Last week Lake Burrendong was photographed from an airplane, revealing the stark reality of the dam’s 8.8 per cent level.
Tony Webber of WaterNSW said the dam was suffering courtesy of “by far and away the lowest inflows on record”.
“Over two years you could typically expect 400 gigalitres, which is about equal to 200,000 Olympic swimming pools. Over the last two years we've had about 40 gigalitres,” he said.
“March last year it was at 40 per cent capacity – it was 90 per cent 12 months prior to that in 2017.”
If conditions persist, water distribution to landholders will have to be cut back in order to continue providing towns with reliable water supply.
There’s some cause for optimism, however, with WaterNSW expecting weather conditions to become more favourable after summer, while stormwater has helped the dam’s levels avoid catastrophic levels.
“Encouragingly we did get some inflows in January,” Mr Webber said.
“Burrendong's catchment is very large. Just from one large storm in the catchment we received about 26 gigalitres in January alone, which held out our storage level.”
Meanwhile, council was able to harvest about 17 days’ worth of water supply from its water harvesting systems last month.
The Macquarie Pipeline, the Ploughmans Creek Stormwater Harvesting Scheme, and Blackmans Swamp Creek Stormwater Harvesting Scheme reaped about 290 megalitres of water in January.
According to council’s website, the combined storage of Suma Park and Spring Creek dams is currently 44.69 per cent.
Our total combined storage is still slowly decreasing, but with additions like the ones we saw in January, we are maintaining that supply over a much longer time.Orange mayor Reg Kidd
Mayor Reg Kidd said the results continue to prove the systems’ effectiveness.
“This is a fantastic result, especially considering how dry it has been lately,” Cr Kidd said.
“Our total combined storage is still slowly decreasing, but with additions like the ones we saw in January, we are maintaining that supply over a much longer time.
“We’ve had quite a good soaking recently and if that continues, we expect some natural inflows into Suma Park Dam will begin, but in January there were no flows.”
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Orange received about 25 per cent less rainfall last month than average: 61.6 millimetres against the long-term mean of 84 millimetres.
Cr Kidd said residents had obviously responded “incredibly well” to the introduction of level three water restrictions late last year.
“Water is on everyone’s mind at the moment and I want to congratulate the people of Orange for doing their bit to reduce their water consumption around the house and garden,” he said.
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