Stark images of dams put in perspective how desperate the drought emergency has become with once gushing dams now bone dry.
Stark images of dams put in perspective how desperate the drought emergency has become with once gushing dams now bone dry.

Confronting reality of our rapidly drying dams

WATER delivery services are struggling to keep up with "unprecedented" and "desperate" demand, forced to expand their services to new regions as more south-east Queensland homes run dry and dam levels drop to the lowest point they have been since 2009.

Dramatic picture comparisons by The Courier-Mail show the devastating toll the drought has taken on dam levels, with the SEQ Water Grid now at 56.8 per cent capacity.

South-east Queenslanders are currently using an average 216 litres per person each day, but SEQ Water says if grid dam levels fall below 50 per cent, residential water use will need to be slashed to just 140 litres per person.

Bill Lynam, 75 of Ballandean, on the banks of the nearly empty Storm King Dam at Stanthorpe. Picture: Liam Kidston.
Bill Lynam, 75 of Ballandean, on the banks of the nearly empty Storm King Dam at Stanthorpe. Picture: Liam Kidston.

 

As dry weather tightens its grip on the south-east, water restrictions are set to be introduced in Beaudesert, Boonah, Kalbar, Mount Alford, Aratula, Rathdowney and Kooralbyn from 12.01am on Sunday, January 5, with restrictions already in place in Canungra.

An aerial photograph shows the rapidly receding Storm King Dam at Stanthorpe. Picture: Lachie Millard
An aerial photograph shows the rapidly receding Storm King Dam at Stanthorpe. Picture: Lachie Millard

 

Latest SEQ Water data shows Wivenhoe Dam, which has a storage capacity of 3.132 million megalitres, needs more than 100mm of rain to fall in the catchment before there will be significant run-off into the dam.

"Once run-off starts, the dam needs significant rainfall to fill to the current declared full supply level," an SEQ Water spokeswoman said.

NOW: Fairbairn Dam south of Emerald has receded dramatically by December 2019.
NOW: Fairbairn Dam south of Emerald has receded dramatically by December 2019.

"For Wivenhoe Dam, this could require in the range of 250mm of rain or more - this includes the initial rainfall to saturate the soil. This depends on the location, duration and intensity of rainfall and is different for every dam."

Water tanker companies have started expanding the regions they service in a bid to help families, with the Canungra region in the Scenic Rim under restrictions since its treatment plant was taken offline in late-November as dwindling supplies affected water quality. Scenic Water Services owner Shane Hosking said he now must travel further to deliver water.

"Normally we'd being doing about 12 deliveries a day - at the moment we're doing about eight a day so it's made that much of a difference," he said.

NOW: Awoonga Dam is at just 68 per cent capacity in December 2019.
NOW: Awoonga Dam is at just 68 per cent capacity in December 2019.

"There's long wait times and it's definitely having a ­financial impact on the possible earnings."

Mr Hosking said the crippling wait times for water were particularly hitting Mount Tamborine. "It's a lot worse this year, when you look around and see the creeks and everything, they're dead - there's nothing there."

Lake Dyer and Bill Gunn Dam, near Laidley in the Lockyer Valley. Picture: Garry Wilkinson
Lake Dyer and Bill Gunn Dam, near Laidley in the Lockyer Valley. Picture: Garry Wilkinson

Hinterland Water Supplies owner Brendan Mallett said he had expanded his delivery area two weeks ago to include Mount Tamborine after being inundated with calls from ­desperate families.

"We get so many people that haven't ordered water for 20 or 30 years, its unprecedented," he said.

"We go to some properties that have never ever had tank water delivered before and now they're having to do it for the first time, so it's obviously a very significant event. The number of people wanting water up there (Mount Tamborine) is unprecedented … it's pretty desperate and people are quite desperate at times."

NOW: Paradise Dam in 2019. Photo: John Wilson
NOW: Paradise Dam in 2019. Photo: John Wilson

A spokeswoman for Mountain Water Supply said the Mount Tamborine cartage company had customers expecting a six-week wait.

"We're pretty flat-out delivering water just on Tamborine Mountain - we've got a six-week wait just to get to our customers up here. In a normal year, we would (deliver to Canungra), but we're struggling for water ourselves."

NOW: Lake Dyer and Bill Gunn Dam, near Laidley in the Lockyer Valley.
NOW: Lake Dyer and Bill Gunn Dam, near Laidley in the Lockyer Valley. "It is a very sad sight due to this terrible drought and is sitting at just 2.8 per cent capacity.”

An Urban Utilities spokeswoman urged all residents in Canungra to save as much water as possible.

"For communities connected to the SEQ Water Grid, water restrictions will be introduced when the combined level of our drinking water dams falls below 50 per cent," she said.

 

Bjelke-Petersen Dam. Picture: Matt Collins
Bjelke-Petersen Dam. Picture: Matt Collins

"With dam levels continuing to fall and water use remaining high due to the hot, dry weather, everyone is being encouraged to reduce their water use in any way they can."

It comes as water levels at both the Bill Gunn Dam, which was less than 5.4 per cent full, and Atkinson Dam, which was less than 2.8 per cent full, have both fallen below minimum reading levels, according to SEQ Water.

 

 

BEFORE: It was one filled with water but this section of Storm King Dam is now bone dry.
BEFORE: It was one filled with water but this section of Storm King Dam is now bone dry.
BEFORE: Fairbairn Dam was once gushing with water in December 2010.
BEFORE: Fairbairn Dam was once gushing with water in December 2010.
BEFORE: Awoonga Dam overflows in January 2013. Photo: Gladstone Region Local Disaster Management Group facebook
BEFORE: Awoonga Dam overflows in January 2013. Photo: Gladstone Region Local Disaster Management Group facebook
BEFORE: Paradise Dam in December 2010. Photo: Max Fleet/NewsMail
BEFORE: Paradise Dam in December 2010. Photo: Max Fleet/NewsMail
BEFORE: Families have a heap of fun at Lake Dyer/Bill Gunn Dam in January 2014. Photo: Rob Williams
BEFORE: Families have a heap of fun at Lake Dyer/Bill Gunn Dam in January 2014. Photo: Rob Williams


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