Wivenhoe Dam
Wivenhoe Dam

Plunging dam levels to trigger drought response in days

SOUTHEAST Queenslanders are being urged to conserve water as dam levels plummet to the lowest levels since the Millennium Drought nearly a decade ago.

Seqwater expects the SEQ Water Grid combined dam levels to drop to 60 per cent capacity next week which is likely to trigger more serious drought measures in the coming days.

It will push southeast Queensland (SEQ) from drought readiness into drought response, the final phase before mandatory water restrictions need to be considered.

Seqwater External Relations Manager Mike Foster said the region's water grid storage levels were hovering around 60.3 per cent and expected to reach 60 per cent next week.

"Water restrictions will not have to be considered until grid dam levels fall below 50 per cent," he said.

"The earliest this trigger could be reached is mid-2020 should SEQ experience another failed wet season."

Senior dam operator Matthew O'Reilly stands in an area that should be covered in metres of water if Wivenhoe Dam were full, instead of being at about half its capacity because of on going drought. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian
Senior dam operator Matthew O'Reilly stands in an area that should be covered in metres of water if Wivenhoe Dam were full, instead of being at about half its capacity because of on going drought. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian

The 12 dams in the SEQ Water Grid serve Brisbane, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Logan Lockyer Valley, Moreton Bay, Noosa and the Sunshine Coast, Redland, Scenic Rim and Somerset councils.

When dam levels reach 60 per cent, the Gold Coast desalination plant will increase production to full capacity, pumping up to 133 million litres directly into the water grid's 600-plus kilometres of pipeline.

Under the drought response phase there is a voluntary daily water use target of 150 litres per person but the latest November daily average was 185 litres per person.

Last summer, SEQ residents consumed a peak of more than 200 litres per person, per day.

"With a hot summer ahead, we are encouraging South East Queenslanders to use this precious resource wisely," Mr Foster said.

Local Government Association of Queensland chief executive Greg Hallam said while water infrastructure built at the last drought was "hugely expensive" it would serve the region well.

That included the SEQ Water Grid, the desalination plant, and water recycling facilities.

"The price of water has become more expensive but for good reasons, and people have become more mindful in their water habits," he said.

"We're in a good place, all that work that was done over a decade ago now ... will help us secure the water supply for southeast Queensland."

The Gold Coast desalination plant will go into full production when dam levels hit 60 per cent.
The Gold Coast desalination plant will go into full production when dam levels hit 60 per cent.

Brisbane City Council Environment, Parks and Sustainability chair Fiona Hammond said it was time to remember the lessons learnt during the last drought.

"We reduced our water quite dramatically back then - 120L per day, per person - and now we're sitting at about 160 litres.

"So we haven't gone back to our old bad habits (from before the drought) but now is the time to really watch our water use."

Queensland Urban Utilities (QUU) spokeswoman Michelle Cull said there were simple ways to save water, like mulching the garden to retain moisture or choosing water wise plants.

"If we all do our bit to save water now, it could make a big difference down the track - we're all in this together," she said.

She said residents could save 27 litres of water per person, per day by reducing showers from seven minutes to four minutes.

QUU had created Spotify 'Bathroom Beats' playlists of water-themed songs to help people keep their showers short and cheerful.

 

An $18 million upgrade to Leslie Harrison Dam at Capalaba was completed May 2019.
An $18 million upgrade to Leslie Harrison Dam at Capalaba was completed May 2019.

 

WATER SAVING TIPS

 

Outside your home

■ Avoid watering in the heat of the day between 8am and 4pm

■ Aerate your lawn so it's ready to absorb any rain we receive

■ Improve your garden's soil and mulch to retain moisture

■ Choose waterwise plants as they need less water

■ Wash your car on the lawn, not on the driveway

■ Use your rainwater tank for watering the garden and topping up the pool

■ Keep an eye on the sky and don't water if rain is on the way.

 

Inside your home

■ Fix leaking taps and toilets as soon as possible

■ Take shorter showers

■ Do full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine

■ Install water efficient devices and appliances

■ Don't leave the tap running while you clean your teeth

■ Scrape leftovers into the bin rather than washing them down the sink.