Lower Hunter Water Restrictions Eased

With dams almost full and an impending La Nina cycle, Hunter Water has lifted water restrictions.

Hunter Water customers will have level 1 water restrictions removed on 1st October, 2020.

No spillway flow at Chichester Dam as levels were lowered to 90% for wall maintenance. Photo: Hunter Water

Upper Hunter restrictions still apply, with Glenbawn and Glennies Creek dams still well below half full despite receiving seasonally average rains.

Lessons learnt

Hunter Water’s Managing Director, Darren Cleary, said residents shouldn’t forget the lessons from the recent severe drought and return to old water habits.

These results, combined with decent winter rainfall and a promising weather outlook for wetter than average conditions in spring, are behind the decision to remove Level 1 water restrictions,” he said.

Since water restrictions were introduced almost a year ago, Lower Hunter residents have used on average 15 per cent less water than we expected, which is equivalent to saving the water use of 52,000 households.

Hunter Water’s significant investment in leakage reduction across its network has led to a further 13 per cent fall last financial year, bringing the total reduction to 34 per cent in three years.”

Last year culminated in severe statewide drought following years of sub-average rainfall. Hunter coastal rainfall that averages 1000 millimeters a year was too low to sustain dam levels.

Entering summer last year the region was in level 1 water restrictions. On 20 January this year level 2 was applied when Grahamstown and Chichester dams reached their lowest levels in 4 decades.

Upper Hunter concerned but optimistic

Water allocations (PDF) by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment (DPIE) allow 100% for local water utilities and stock, but high security allocation is 90%, while general water security is still critical at 30% allocation. Carryover water is slightly higher than at this time last year, however.

A DPIE statement today said that with limited rainfall and storage improvement in the Hunter, there is no increase in allocation for general security water licence holders this month.

The total general security allocation so far this 2020-21 water year, remains unchanged at 53% of entitlement. All other high priority water access licence holders in the Hunter Regulated River Water Source have received their full (100%) allocation.

While valley catchment has received average rainfall through autumn and winter, it still approaches this summer with dam levels considerably lower that at the start of summer 2019.

In July 2019 Glenbawn and Glennies Creek exceeded 50% each, but July this year had them at well less than 40%. Though full, Lostock hold a small fraction of the others.

Both catchments received about 34mm and 39mm of rainfall and 15.7 gigalitres (GL) and 1.3 GL of net inflow respectively. Glenbawn is rising slowly, while Glennies Creek is steady.

Expected rainfall

While no one can predict the future, the Bureau of Meteorology’s computer models make a decent fist of it.

The Bureau’s ENSO Outlook remains at La Niña ALERT. However, further cooling of the surface of the tropical Pacific Ocean is expected.

All surveyed international climate models indicate La Niña thresholds will be met from September until at least the end of the year, with most models maintaining these values into early 2021.

In other words, we can reasonably hope for a cooler wetter spring with above average rainfall on the coast.

And, with luck, up the valley too.