In its February 2020 water allocation statement, the NSW Government says that despite recent coastal rainfall and some inflows into the Hunter system, there is insufficient improvement in water availability to provide an allocation increase.
The Hunter Regulated River Water Source is classified as Drought Stage 1 – indicating normal regulated river operations.
If the recent improvement becomes short-lived and longer-term dry conditions return in the Hunter, the drought stage may need to be raised to Stage 2 or higher.”
Weather conditions and inflows were being closely monitored to assess water availability and potential water allocations, including meeting commitments on 1 July for the 2020-21 water year.
The report said that apart from general security entitlements, all other categories of licence in the regulated river water source have already received their maximum allocation for this water year (2019-20).
Stage 1 Dam levels (as at 26 February 2020)
- Glenbawn Dam is 40 per cent full – rising slowly – holding about 300 GL.
- Glennies Creek Dam is 37 per cent full – steady – holding about 106 GL.
- At this time last year Glenbawn was 56 per cent full and Glennies Creek 58 per cent full.
The NSW Extreme Events Policy introduced a staged approach from one to four to manage extreme circumstances such as severe droughts or poor water quality events in the Murray-Darling Basin. As the drought extended beyond the Basin and into coastal catchments, regulated coastal rivers have been reported on the drought map on the DPIE website.
Currently, the Hunter Regulated River Water Source is classified as Drought Stage 1 – indicating normal regulated river operations. However, this water source has been experiencing exceptionally dry conditions in recent months and as with most of NSW, storage levels had been falling, until the recent minor improvements.
Water users are advised to use water conservation measures to protect supplies. Should inflows drop below planned historical minimums, delivering all allocated water in subsequent years becomes problematic.
Drought stage is typically escalated and contingency measures are applied to protect high priority water needs, including town water supplies, during severe water shortages.
If the recent improvement becomes short-lived and longer-term dry conditions return in the Hunter, the drought stage may need to be raised to Stage 2 or higher in May or June and tighter water savings measures introduced.
Further information on drought stages can be found here.
- Net inflow into for Glenbawn Dam in the first half of February 2020 was 5,872 ML.
- Glennies Creek Dam received 2,365 ML.
- Releases from Glenbawn and Glennies Creek
- Dams are being made to meet downstream essential requirements and irrigation demand.
The planning horizon for high priority commitments, including town water supplies for the Hunter resource water availability, covers up to 3 years and currently runs through to June 2022.
If the prolonged dry conditions experienced recently return, ensuring security of supply for high priority commitments becomes paramount, while general security allocations may be very low or zero at the commencement of the 2020-21 water year (1 July 2020).
The resource situation may be exacerbated if water quality deteriorates and prompts the need to use the Environmental Water Allowance (maximum 20 GL).
Seasonal climate outlook
The Bureau of Meteorology seasonal outlook for March to May shows likely drier than average conditions for the catchment. Temperatures are likely to be above average.
The Bureau’s El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is neutral and is expected to remain neutral until the end of autumn. The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is also neutral.
With both the ENSO and IOD indicators now in the neutral range, Australia’s climate can be influenced by more local or short-term climate drivers.
For further details here.
Information on available water determinations and water sharing plans is available on the Department of Industry website.