Emerald's Fairbairn Dam, photo taken on April 28.
Emerald's Fairbairn Dam, photo taken on April 28. Jacob McLucas

Central Highlands irrigators in limbo with water allocations

MORE thank 350 Central Highlands customers are nervously waiting the announcement of the water allocations for Emerald's Fairbairn Dam.

The Morning Bulletin printed a story in Tuesday's paper stating the dam was at 24.8 per cent, a depressingly low figure.

"We are conscious of the current water levels in Fairbairn Dam and operate our irrigation infrastructure to maximise water efficiency," a SunWater spokesperson said.

"SunWater is also liaising with customer representatives to determine the optimum time to install temporary pumping units to maximise water availability as storage continues to fall."

Water allocations for 387 customers in the Nogoa Mackenzie Water Supply Scheme are to be renewed on July 1 and given the figure, they potentially could not be 100 per cent allocations.

A SunWater spokesperson said they understand this is a difficult time for customers, as low allocations can have a significant impact on their business.

"High priority allocation from Fairbairn Dam is predicted to be 100 per cent which is typically the water supply provided to these stakeholders," the spokesperson said.

The water allocation for medium priority customers in Nogoa Mackenzie water supply scheme will be calculated on July 1.

Medium priority water entitlements are mainly used by irrigators for agricultural production.

"The reliability of medium priority water is lower than that of high priority and is reduced when water levels are lower to preserve high priority water," the spokesperson said.

Customers are being encouraged to use the prediction tool on SunWater's website to get an indication of next year's availability.

"SunWater has been working closely with customers to ensure they have all information necessary to maximise benefits of allocations and carry-over entitlements," a spokesperson said.

It is predicted high priority customers in Nogoa Mackenzie will be allocated 100 per cent of their entitlement for the 2018/19 water year.

High priority water has higher operational charges and is typically used for town water supply, industrial use including mining and power generation, and high value cropping.

SunWater is also investigating pumping arrangements to ensure we can facilitate access to all available water from the dam.

The last time Fairbairn Dam was last at this same volume was in December 2007.

Fairbairn Dam previously reached a historical low of 11.8 per cent in December 2006.