Cattle crossing the Fairbairn Dam wall – October 2019.
As of 27th October, Fairbairn Dam officially dropped to under 14% capacity of its massive 1,301,000ML capacity (three times the size of Sydney Harbour). Earlier this year in May, Fairbairn hit capacity of around 11%, which is the one of the lowest recorded levels since construction in 1972. The lowest historical level is 0.02% in 1974.
Everyone is feeling the impacts of below average rainfall, and compounding poor seasons. Water allocations and other supplementary supplies are an important external water source for some farmers and graziers, but unfortunately it is agriculture (usually medium priority allocations) that takes the cuts on water volume first.
High priority allocations for all schemes, which are typically for town water supply, industrial use such as mining and power generation, and high value cropping, still have 100% of their allocation for the 2019/2020 water year.
However, medium priority allocation announcements in scheme areas heavily impacted by lack of in-flow to storage facilities are seeing figures of between 0% -30%, as heavy water restrictions continue or kick in.
During extended dry periods, high priority water allocations are the last to be placed on restrictions, so medium priority users can expect to see further cuts if Huey doesn’t deliver good rainfall to boost dam levels this season.
Any water users should double check their entitlements and/or supply conditions to ensure they are taking water in compliance with their right to do so (and not overusing or illegally taking water). Taking water you are not legally entitled to (whether accidentally or intentional) is “unauthorised water use”, which can see you hit with a fine of up to $222,194.25!