Behind the Fairbairn Dam Spillway Aerial Photo 5.5m December 30th 2010.
Behind the Fairbairn Dam Spillway Aerial Photo 5.5m December 30th 2010.

QLD DROUGHT: CQ dam just 2% off record low levels

AS EMERALD'S Fairbairn Dam sinks to a gravely concerning level, many other dams around Queensland are sitting high, some even at 80 per cent.

Paradise Dam near Biggenden and Bundaberg is sitting at a more than comfortable level at 92.8 per cent.

Even nearby, Biloela's Callide Dam is just over 50 per cent.

All while Emerald lingers lower and is now at 14.1 per cent with 183,719 megalitres. The full supply volume is 1,301,129 megalitres.

One dam that is doing it tough is Lake Barambah (Bjelke-Petersen Dam) in the South Burnett region, the water supply to the towns of Murgon and Cherbourg - it has reached 13.9 per cent.

Governing corporation Sunwater released a hazard water level warning on Thursday for the dam.

ABOVE RIGHT: Current storage levels of dams across Queensland. Fairbairn Dam is one of the lowest in the state.

The same notice was given for Lake Maraboon (Fairbairn Dam) on November 15, when it reached 18.6 per cent capacity.

The hazard warning reminds recreational users to be aware of submerged hazards and observe the recommended lake closure times from 6pm-6am daily.

"We are working with Maritime Safety Queensland and have placed buoys at some known hazards, such as rocks and trees. Further information on these hazards are included in MSQ's Notice to Mariners,” the notice said.

"Please keep in mind there may be further hazards that are lurking under the water's surface so proceed with caution.

"It is the responsibility of the skipper to be aware of the risks associated with operating their vessel on the lake.

"We will continue to work with MSQ in monitoring water levels and provide further updates as required.”

Fairbairn Dam has been sinking lower for a good part of the past 12 months.

In December, it was at 15.93 per cent and in the June prior it was at 24.8 per cent.

It is just 2 per cent away from the lowest level ever.

Since the dam was completed in 1974, the lowest recorded storage level for the dam has been 11.8 per cent (152,940 megalitres).

This was in December 2006.

The Fairbairn Dam overflows with the floodwater of Central Queensland this week.
Photo Contributed
The Fairbairn Dam overflows with the floodwater of Central Queensland in February 2012. Contributed

Across the Central Highlands 387 irrigators were given low allocations this year, with 9 per cent for medium priority water allocations.

"We understand the significant pressure drought conditions and low water allocations are having on our customers and the community,” a SunWater spokesperson said.

"We are working closely with them to deliver water in a way that minimises loss and maximises availability.

"We communicate with our customers regularly regarding water use and projected future water availability and as of January 2019, will provide monthly water meter data to assist in business planning.

"On December 1, 2018, Sunwater announced a 3 (percentage point) increase for medium priority water allocations in the Nogoa Mackenzie scheme to 9 per cent (previously 6 per cent).

"High priority water allocations remained at 100 per cent - Central Highlands Regional Council is a high priority customer.

"Like in previous years, Nogoa Mackenzie customers will be able to carry over unused water allocations from 2018/2019 into the 2019/2020 water year, up to the scheme-wide cap.”

Water from Fairbairn Dam is released down the Nogoa River to the Selma Weir for the town water supply to Emerald.

"Given the current level of Fairbairn Dam (14.2 per cent), we are also working with our customers to maximise the benefit to the region for the 2019/2020 water year (commencing July 1, 2019).”

Sunwater's water forecast tool predicts if there are average monthly inflows, Fairbairn Dam's storage levels will increase during the 2018/2019 wet season.

"We are hopeful that there will be inflows into Fairbairn Dam during this summer period to ensure ongoing water security and business confidence for our customers and the local community,” the spokesperson said.

The $11.7million upgrade to the Selma Main Channel system is also now under way.

The project includes re-lining a 34km section of the Selma Main Channel and it will significantly reduce water being lost during transport.

It will also make on average, an extra 6400ML of water available for end users such as farmers in the Emerald area to irrigate cotton, citrus and grain crops.

The project is being jointly funded through an investment of $8.7 million from SunWater with a commitment of $3 million under the Australian Government's National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.