WATER BANS? BELIEVE IT ...
By Alex Easton
DON'T let the green hills fool you. We could be heading for water restrictions soon if the rains don't come.
Rous Water will next month consider early water restrictions amid fears low rainfall has cost Rocky Creek Dam its autumn top-up.
New Rous chairman Robert Mustow said Rous councillors were concerned the lack of rainfall and falling dam levels could point to a slide back to the drought conditions that continue to plague NSW and South-East Queensland.
The comments came as a local climate expert warned the Northern Rivers could not take high rainfall for granted. A Rous spokesman said only 276mm of rain fell on the Rocky Creek catchment between January and March this year, compared with1057mm over the same period last year.
According to Rous figures, Rocky Creek Dam is just over 70 per cent full, putting the region's water supply in much better shape than it was at this stage in the 2001-02 drought, when the dam was already under 50 per cent.
However, dam levels appear to be sliding at about the same rate they were in that year.
Rous will next year add a new water source to its stable with the start of pumping from the Wilsons River.
However, Cr Mustow said that with the falling dam levels, the Rous council would next month consider changing rules to allow water restrictions to start before dam levels reach their present 50 per cent trigger.
Associate Professor Graham Jones, of the Centre for Climate Change Studies at Southern Cross University's school of Environmental Science and Management, said the region's position on the continent, combined with its mountains and its dense vegetation, gave it an edge over many parts of the country when it came to rainfall.
However, that did not make the region drought-proof.
Dr Jones was presently overseeing a study of local rainfall trends, with data being gathered by Dunoon resident Helen Robinson.
The work was not complete, but figures over the past 50 years appeared to point to a steady decline in rainfall on the Northern Rivers, he said.
Dr Jones said population also played a big role in taxing a region's water supplies.
However, Cr Mustow said water usage on the Northern Rivers, since the 2001-2003 drought, had continued to fall despite a growing population.
"I think people realised in the last drought how water is a big issue," Cr Mustow said.