Sunday, August 31, 2008

Severe water restrictions in rural Australia

Bendigo Advertiser (Australia): City dwellers in Bendigo are staring down the barrel of a second summer of full-blown water restrictions. And farming communities will fare no better, with no allocations earmarked for irrigators unless things change dramatically.

Even solid rain over the weekend, including 19.4mm on Saturday alone, has so far failed to translate into enough run-off to boost depleted reserves. However, the rain did manage to push winter falls above the average. But the full impact of climate change on Coliban River inflows is becoming apparent.

Coliban Water managing director Gavin Hanlon last week revealed that since 1996, monthly inflows during August have dropped from a long term average of 15,028 megalitres to a mere 5651 megalitres. Mr Hanlon has estimated August, which is traditionally the highest inflow month of the year, will this year yield less than 1000 megalitres into storages. July inflows were only 859 megalitres. He said anything less than 8000 megalitres in the three months from August to October is likely to force continuation of zero rural allocations and ongoing stage four restrictions.

Current water reserves, including an eight-gigalitre reserve in Lake Eildon, give Coliban Water access to about 27 gigalitres _ but almost two-thirds of this is deemed the minimum level to carry over. Mr Hanlon said the water authority is focused on contingency planning based on the worst-case scenario of the past 10 years being repeated. He said a range of options would be pursued to strengthen water security, including accessing groundwater supplies….

Bendigo is that red dot. Map by TalShiar, Wikimedia Commons

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