The long dry: close watch on MidCoast water use

Published on 31 May 2019

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Water resources on the MidCoast are being monitored as implementation of restrictions continue across the State with most of NSW drought-declared.

“It’s understandable that people are wondering what’s happening with our water supply and wondering if we will soon have water restrictions, especially as Sydney introduces its first water restrictions for this drought,” said Council’s Acting Director of Water Services, Rob Scott.

“We are certainly monitoring all conditions as we usually do, and we are considering the options available to us in deciding how we will respond to the unprecedented situation here on the MidCoast.”

While the MidCoast is extremely dry, Mr Scott explained that implementing low-level restrictions at the moment would not have an impact on water use.

“This time of year is traditionally a time of low water use, so implementing restrictions at this point in time would not deliver us any savings.”

To understand where the MidCoast is heading regarding restrictions, it’s helpful to review how water use is managed in our region.

MidCoast Council operates five water supply schemes – four of which are reliant on the flows of nearby rivers.

The Manning scheme draws its water from the Manning River. We have a storage dam at Bootawa, which is filled by pumping water from the Manning River just upstream from Wingham. The Gloucester water supply is similarly reliant on flows in the Barrington River, Stroud on the Karuah River and Bulahdelah on the Crawford River.

“It is when river levels fall too low to allow pumping and storage dams can’t be kept at capacity that we may need to look at introducing water restrictions,” Mr Scott said.

The Tea Gardens/Hawks Nest water supply is sourced from an underground aquifer and is not as dependent on seasonal climatic variations, however at times restrictions may be required.

Every day, Council staff monitor how much water is used, weather forecasts and patterns, rainfall, river and water storage levels and at the established trigger points, advise the community of water restrictions.

“When we are getting close to introducing water restrictions, we also provide some prior notice to the community via local newspapers and radio, social media and our website. Of course, weather prediction is not an exact science, so we can never be certain of when we will introduce water restrictions.”

“We have an established system and trigger levels for introducing water restrictions, which are part of a larger NSW standardised system.

“When restrictions come in, staff monitor our actual daily usage against the target usage we are aiming for under each level of restrictions. That’s how they know if the community is cooperating with restrictions.”

At present, water storages are full, although river levels are very low. Council is watching for the rainfall that’s predicted for this weekend, and we’re looking at the predictions for some rainfall in mid-June. In winter, typical water usage rates are below the targets of the first levels of water restrictions, so Council teams are considering the best way forward, with no large rainfall predictions for this winter.

“We’ll be keeping everyone informed about the developing situation over the coming weeks, through local media, Council’s website and social media.”

If dry weather patterns continue into spring, MidCoast residents will need to be ready to conserve water and restrictions may well be in force earlier in the summer season than ever before.

Click here for more information on managing water use, and how to save water at home.