Fairbairn Dam taken in August from above. When it is full it is five times the size of Sydney Harbour.
Fairbairn Dam taken in August from above. When it is full it is five times the size of Sydney Harbour. Lake Maraboon Holiday Village.

Fairbairn down to 10%, but take a look under the surface

DESPITE only being at 12 per cent capacity, Fairbairn Dam is still 11 metres deep - more than enough for boating, skiing and holidaying according to Lake Maraboon Holiday Village owner John Walsh.

Even at 12 per cent, it is still miles bigger than other dams at 100 per cent.

Mr Walsh has a long history with the dam. He first came to the area 20 years and built the holiday village then years later sold it to Discovery Parks as his wife was ill.

A little over five years ago, he bought it back.

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

He knows the dam well and what it holds.

Mr Walsh was there in 2006 when it hit its record low and said even at that level it still had "miles of water" - as it does now.

During that time, the holiday park organised a charity golf day to raise funds for the drought.

There were 260 guests booked in to play golf from island to island, but the rain came and the event had to be cancelled.

"It just came up overnight... it was incredible," Mr Walsh said.

His biggest gripe at the moment is the misconception that people think the dam is dry and they don't realise what the low percentage level really means compared to how much water was in the dam.

Fairbairn Dam stores five times the amount water in the Sydney Harbour when at full capacity.

Located 25km south-west of Emerald, the dam was built across the Nogoa River, creating Lake Maraboon.

It is Queensland's second largest lake after the Burdekin Dam.


Fairbairn Dam
Fairbairn Dam Centro

The lake has a catchment area of 16,320 sq km with an uncontrolled concrete spillway capable of discharging 15,580 cubic metres of water per second.

The Nogoa River has a catchment area of 27,690 sq km (10,690 sq mi)

In January 2008, the Nogoa River reached record flood levels during which water levels in the Fairbairn Dam rapidly exceeded 100 per cent.

The Nogoa peaked at 15.4 metres in Emerald on the night of January 22, 2008 and forced more than 2500 people to be evacuated.

At 12 per cent, it still contains about 160,000 ML of water.

"It's an inland ocean," Mr Walsh said.

"It's a mile of water; it's still bigger than many other dams.

"I can look out my window and I can't even see the other side."

READ HERE: Fairbairn dam scarily close to record low

To compare, Callide Dam in Biloela is at 55.1 per cent with 75,140ML.

Even if Callide was at 100 per cent, Fairbairn's volume at 10 per cent would still be a bigger amount of water.

Cania Dam near Monto, is also at 77.1 per cent - but it still only contains 68,862ML, not even half of Fairbairn's at 12 per cent.

Eungella Dam in the Mackay region is also at 100.2 per cent and contains 112,702ML of water.

"We (Fairbairn) still have a lot of water... people are so negative on the percentage," Mr Walsh said.

"They have no perspective, it hasn't run dry.

"It's still 11 and eight metres deep in the main skiing areas."


Fairbairn Dam taken in August from above. When it is full it is three times the size of Sydney Harbour.
The Lake Maraboon Holiday Village. Mr Walsh built the park around 20 years ago and has seen many guests come from all over the country over the years. Aerial taken in August 2018. Lake Maraboon Holiday Village.

Mr Walsh said the low storage level was creating a lot of negativity from out of town guests and he was getting 10 phone calls from customers a day asking if the dam was dry or if they could cancel their booking.

"It's frustrating for us... there is plenty of water to ski," he said.

Speaking to The Morning Bulletin on Thursday afternoon, he said there were people out on the water skiing that afternoon.

Whatever is causing it, whether it be the low level or just good weather - Mr Walsh said the dam had the best fishing at the moment that he had seen in 20 years.

Guests are just reeling in barramundi one after another.

Lake Maraboon Holiday Village is at the beginning of the grey nomad season and Mr Walsh reassured guests the dam was nowhere near drying up any time soon.

Majority of guests are mining employees from around Moranbah and Dysart area who like to come to the dam on their days off.


John Walsh.
Lake Maraboon Holiday Village's John Walsh said Fairbairn has the best fishing he has seen in 20 years at the moment. Aden Stokes

"We have just started getting the caravans in for the season," Mr Walsh said.

The guests are always amazed to see how much water is there.

"The catchment area is just so big.

"The lake can fill up and it won't even rain in the park."

Mr Walsh said he could never imagine the dam going dry and couldn't put into words what it would be like if it did.

"It's just impossible," he said.

"We're sure it's going to rain, it can't not... when it's going to happen we don't know.

"It would be nice to have it green and lush again."