AUSTRALIA - Water Levels Hit Danger Mark : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Water levels hit danger mark

By DAVID ADAMS Monday 20 March 2000

Authorities have warned that without good winter and spring rains much of Victoria could have water restrictions next summer.

Water storage feeding metropolitan Melbourne has fallen to just over 50 per cent, while in the country water levels are less than 40 per cent. Nine rural water authorities have introduced restrictions and several more want customers to cut water usage.

The Bureau of Meteorology said that although heavy rains were expected to continue over much of eastern Australia, the situation in southern Victoria - home to some of the driest areas in the state, such as Geelong - remained unclear.

"The basic picture is the heavy rainfall that has been occurring up north is going to continue, but we're uncertain about what is happening over Victoria," said the bureau's climate meteorologist, Dr Harvey Stern.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources and Environment's water manage-ment group said that while the situation was being well-managed, "a lot will depend on what happens over winter and spring".

If rainfall remains low, those regions on water restrictions may be forced to upgrade them, while authorities that have not yet had to introduce restrictions may need to do so.

According to the department's latest data, rural water authority storages were only 36 per cent full at the end of February, about 3 per cent less than they were at the same time last year.

Stream flows in some areas, such as the Otway Ranges and east of Cann River, were at less than 10 per cent. Three-quarters of the state had February stream flows of less than 50 per cent of their long-term average.

Reservoirs feeding metropolitan Melbourne, meanwhile, were at 51.9 per cent capacity last week, compared with 61.9 per cent at the same time last year.

Melbourne Water said the rainfall to water supply catchments in the first two weeks of March has been about half its normal levels.

The managing director of Melbourne Water, Mr Brian Bayley, said the water levels were not yet of serious concern, but "at the end of the day, if we don't get good winter and spring rains and people don't preserve water, then we will be into restrictions later in the year".

In country Victoria, the three-and-a-half-year dry spell is causing significant problems. The president of the Victorian Farmers Federation, Mr Peter Walsh, said some farmers were carting water for stock from bores or reservoirs, and in some areas ground water stocks had dropped to low levels.

In order to gauge the effect of the dry weather, farmers in the state's south-west have been asked by the South West Seasonal Conditions Taskforce to complete a survey, which is aimed at providing information on water shortage levels as well as methods being used to overcome the low water levels.

The taskforce is an industry-wide body made up of representatives of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the Victorian Farmers Federation, the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria, councils and water authorities.

-- (, March 19, 2000

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