Fairbairn Dam
Fairbairn Dam Centro

CQ DROUGHT: Fairbairn dam scarily close to record low

CENTRAL Highlands main water supply is less than one per cent away from reaching it's lowest level ever.

Fairbairn Dam, also known as Lake Maraboon, has been rapidly decreasing for the best part of the last six months as little to no rain has fallen over Emerald.

Sunwater's official data at 1pm on Thursday afternoon measured the dam at 12.12 per cent.

This is 0.32 per cent higher than the lowest recorded capacity in it's 45-year history, which was 11.8 per cent in December 2006.

Sunwater has predicted it will exceed this record low by early March.

However, they do expect some rain throughout autumn.

READ HERE: Fairbairn down to 10%, but take a look at underneath the surface 

The Morning Bulletin requested a statement from Sunwater, the governing body of the dam, on the current conditions.

"According to Sunwater's online water storage forecast tool, if there are average monthly inflows, Fairbairn Dam's storage level is expected to increase in April and May 2019," a Sunwater spokesperson said.

"We understand the significant pressure drought conditions are having on our customers and the wider community and are hopeful that there will be inflows into Fairbairn Dam to ensure ongoing water security and business confidence."

The minimum operating level for the dam is 0.95 per cent capacity or 12,300ML.

Sunwater advises they are monitoring the dam carefully.

A warning to be wary of exposed and submerged hazards at the dam was released in early November.

"Sunwater monitors the water quality of Fairbairn Dam in line with regulatory requirements and the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Water Monitoring Data Collection Standard," the spokesperson said.

"We also work with our customers, natural resource management groups and government agencies to achieve good environmental outcomes through the setting of measurable goals, monitoring, reporting and reviewing the effectiveness of the management system."

READ HERE: Region's cotton harvest down by 40 per cent due to the dry

About 387 irrigators rely on the water from the dam and were given grim water allocations last year.

Medium priority holders were given 11 per cent allocation and 100 per cent for high priority holders, which includes Central Highlands Regional Council.

Customers were able to carry over unused water allocations from 2017/18 up to a scheme-wide cap of 75,000 megalitres.

Individual carry-over volumes varied depending on customer water use last year.

Water allocations for the 2019/20 water year will be announced on July 1 and will depend on the volume of water in Fairbairn Dam at the time.

"Customers have been advised that if there are no inflows into Fairbairn Dam before July 1, 2019, the announced allocation for high priority entitlements is expected to be below 100 per cent and zero per cent for medium priority entitlements," the spokesperson said.

"With this possibility in mind, we have been working with our customers to maximise benefits to the region for the 2019/20 water year.

"One of these benefits includes confirming that both medium and high priority customers will be able to carry over unused water allocations from 2018/19 into the 2019/20 water year, subject to the scheme's operating rules."

Sunwater did not respond to The Morning Bulletin's question about when will the town of Emerald would need to go onto water restrictions.

They also did not respond to what would happen if the dam reached below its operating level.

The Nogoa Mackenzie Water Supply Scheme Efficiency Improvement Project which involves the re-lining of a 34 kilometre section of the Selma Channel system to reduce seepage losses is underway.

The first section of the channel re-lining between 25 Mile (Tyson Road) to Ford Creek expected to commence on March 22.