RESIDENTS in southeast Queensland are being asked to start preparing for the possibility of drought following a record dry winter and a forecast hot summer ahead.
Minister for Water Supply Mark Bailey today joined Seqwater chief executive Jim Pruss in launching the drought readiness phase of the Drought Response Plan, part of a 30-year water supply security program for the southeast.
The phase is triggered when the combined level of the southeast’s major drinking water dams falls to 70% capacity.
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The combined level is currently sitting at 71.2% and is expected to reach the trigger within the next two weeks.
However, Mr Bailey said the region was far better equipped to deal with drought now than ever before, because the Labor government built the Water Grid, significantly reducing the need for severe water restrictions.
“The drought readiness phase is about getting South East Queenslanders ready for the possibility, not the inevitability, of drought and encouraging people to be water wise at home and outside,” Mr Bailey said.
“The connected water treatment plants and pipelines across the Water Grid, and the availability of the Gold Coast Desalination Plant and the Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme to respond to drought, means the region has more resources at its disposal to manage drought than ever before.
“One of the key lessons from the Millennium Drought was the importance of engaging with the community early.
“By working with the community and carefully managing our precious water supplies we can help delay, and even potentially avoid, the need for mandatory water restrictions or new infrastructure.”
Region-wide mandatory water restrictions will not be required until combined dam levels reach 50% capacity.
Based on current modelling and consumption, this isn’t likely to happen until late 2018 or early 2019.
Mr Pruss said this gave authorities more time to better prepare the community for the possibility of drought and encourage the community to reduce their water use while the dry conditions.
“The biggest single change since the Millennium Drought has been the construction of the Water Grid which allows Seqwater to move treated drinking water around the region.
“This is especially important when patchy rainfall leaves some areas with full dams, and other parts of the region with lower dam levels, as we saw last summer, particularly on the Sunshine Coast.
“However the Grid is limited to the amount of water it can move around and cannot fully replace local water supplies if they run low, which is why starting to look at ways to help preserve our drinking water is so important.”
Mr Pruss said the ongoing hot, dry conditions have already resulted in an increase in water consumption.
To offset the impact of poor summer rainfall and a record dry winter, Seqwater is currently operating the Water Grid to help manage water supply storage levels across the region.
Mr Pruss said consumption in SEQ had increased from an average of 168 litres per person per day over winter to an average of 200 litres per person per day over the first few weeks of spring.
That is an increase of about 30 litres per person, per day.
On the Sunshine Coast, consumption has already soared to almost 250 litres per person per day.
“This is the sort of consumption we are more likely to see in the middle of summer,” Mr Pruss said.
“We’re asking everyone to think about their water use and be more efficient. There are simple things we can all do that don’t impact our lifestyle but can make a big difference.
“For example, the best time to water the garden is before 10am and after 4pm. If you water during the heat of the day, you can lose up to 50% of that water to evaporation.”
Seqwater will continue to closely monitor weather forecasts, catchment conditions and dam levels, and operate the Water Grid as required to best manage the region’s water supply.
Details of the Drought Response Plan or the South East Queensland Water Security Program are available here.