Manager Water Utilites Peter Manning, Mayor Kerry Hayes and Workshop Supervisor Andrew Jansen inspecting Capella dam earlier this year.
Manager Water Utilites Peter Manning, Mayor Kerry Hayes and Workshop Supervisor Andrew Jansen inspecting Capella dam earlier this year. Contributed

Central Highlands hoping spring rain will increase dam level

CENTRAL Highlands Regional Council Mayor Kerry Hayes is empathetic to farmers and growers given the current water situation and said council are looking to ways they can help.

Council has already received requests from residents asking if they can assist with water supply.

Cr Hayes said council has water allocations and they are looking at plans whether it be through the stand-pipe or water allocations they can share.

Given the dam has been steadily dropping for the past few months, Cr Hayes said those reliant on water would have been prepared for a low allocation.

"Because of the management now and the very accurate calculation, it is a big help to know some months prior they do have that lead-in for what crops they can plant,” Cr Hayes said.

While the allocation is 6 per cent now, it is hoped it will increase down the track.

"The full impact of that allocation has not been fully absorbed, there is an expectant it could change in three to four months,” Cr Hayes said.

Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Kerry Hayes.
Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Kerry Hayes. Contributed

"We have got into our traditional dry winter.”

It is hoped there would be some significant rain and storms in spring around September and the allocations would rise.

Growers that did not use all of their water allocation will also be able to utilise their carry-over amounts.

"When you come to permanent tree corps, most of those growers would have pumped and stored water or are on high priority allocations,” Cr Hayes said.

"In terms of the broader hectare and cropping, the majority of growers don't have the chance.”

A major crop around the Central Highlands is cotton.

Cotton Australia reports that the average irrigation requirement for cotton is 7.8 mega litres per hectare. It is misconception that cotton growers use a lot of water.

Rice uses 12.6 mega litres, fruit and nut trees 5.6 mega litres and cut flowers and turf 4.9 mega litres.

Cotton is only planted when sufficient water is made available from rivers and groundwater sources through government regulated water licensing schemes.

Cotton is mostly grown in the 400-800mm summer rainfall zone, which means cotton crops receive most of their water needs from rain during the growing season.

When there's no water, cotton isn't planted.

Cr Hayes said the extended planning window now allows for cotton to be planted earlier or later.

"That still would be an option to plant in November or December,” he said.

For now, it will be up to the weather gods to see if rain falls in coming months.

"In the short-term it is very daunting proposition, there is an expectation there will be a break in spring but it is not guaranteed,” Cr Hayes said.

The last time the dam was this low in Cr Hayes' time was in 2007.

It was quite low throughout the beginning of that year and then it rained in October, flooding the entire town in December.

"So it can change quite quickly,” Cr Hayes said.

"That's the love of a sunburnt country.”