Last summer was another record breaking season for high temperatures and low rainfall. Winter saw a return to near-average conditions, but catchments remain drier than normal. The region’s water storages and river flows held up well, but if there is low rainfall this spring, it is possible that parts of our service area may need restrictions implemented in summer 2019-20.
At this time there are no ‘Stage Restrictions’ implemented on any town within our service region. However, all of Victoria has permanent water saving rules in place. These rules are a set of compulsory common-sense measures to reduce demand and make sure we use water efficiently.
You can view the rules here.
The forecasts are pointing to a dry spring which means it is likely that some towns within our region may need restrictions implemented this summer.
Over the coming months we will assess water usage, storage levels and river flows along with rainfall and temperature outlooks from the Bureau of Meteorology before making any decision on when and where restrictions are put in place.
The Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning controls the rules surrounding each stage of water restrictions which are applicable to all Victorian urban water corporations.
North East Water generally determines when water restrictions will be implemented in each town except in certain circumstances when we are directed by the Minister for Water.
We monitor water usage, storage levels and river flows which are then combined with river flow, rainfall and temperature outlooks from the Bureau of Meteorology. This allows us to forecast if towns and cities in our region need to be placed on water restrictions.
Conditions are continually monitored and our ‘Water Outlooks’ for each will be issued on 1 December and then updated regularly over summer.
Some people may have an expectation about bringing in restrictions now, however during the cooler months, customers aren’t using much water. We refer to this as the base demand period and it represents a time where there is little restrictable demand. Water restrictions are not effective during this period.
Restrictions have the most benefit when they’re absolutely necessary as there is a risk that customers will get ‘fatigued’ about such measures before they are really needed.
Lake Hume is currently at 42% capacity. This level is lower than usual for this time of year and reflects the dry summer and winter that we have had. The Murray Darling Basin Authority will manage Lake Hume to maximise volumes in storage via natural inflows from the Murray and Mitta Mitta rivers. In addition, water transfers from Dartmouth to Hume will continue to supplement natural inflows to Lake Hume.
Dartmouth Dam serves as a drought reserve and is currently at 58% of capacity – that’s enough water to refill Lake Hume to full supply capacity, even in the absence of any natural inflows.
The River Murray system operated by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, consists of many storages and lochs to ensure that water can be stored and delivered to water holders across three states. Water is used for irrigation, environmental and urban water supplies. Urban water use makes up approximately 7% of all water use on the Murray System.
North East Water holds approximately 1% of water available on the Murray system which is used to supply half of our customer base. Our other customers receive their water from local waterways, storages and groundwater.
The Murray system operates on a seasonal water allocation model. The season runs from 1 July to 30 June each year. The Northern Victorian Resource Manager (NVRM) determines how much allocation is available. The level of allocation is based on how much water is available in the whole Victorian Murray system.
North East Water holds water entitlement that is far greater than annual customer demand. We hold this extra water to ensure that we can meet demand during dry years when reduced allocation is made available by the NVRM. We also have access to 'carryover’ – this is unused water allocation that can be carried over into the following season. Carryover into 2019-20 was maximised in preparation for ongoing dry conditions. This means that North East Water has access to allocated entitlement plus allocation carried over from the previous season.
Albury City Council is the responsible authority that supplies Albury with treated drinking water. Albury City determines when to implement restrictions based on conditions, outlooks and allocations. Although water is accessed from the Murray system on both sides of the border, the rules that determine how much water can be used by North East Water and Albury City are different. The Murray Darling Basin Authority determines how much water can be shared with Victoria and NSW.
North East Water holds a volume of water entitlement for the Murray system that provides the right to extract water. In Victoria, the amount of water available from this entitlement, or allocation, is set progressively by the Northern Victoria Resource Manager at regular intervals throughout the year. The percentage of allocation available to North East Water is the same as for irrigation water users and reflects how much water the state of Victoria currently has access to in the Murray system. In NSW, the allocation for town water supplies on the Murray system is determined for the year by the NSW government on 1 July. This allocation can be different to the allocation issued for irrigation water users.
The last time restrictions were needed in north-east Victoria was in 2010. Over the past decade we have invested around $35 million in projects to improve the drought resilience of our region.
Projects include new efficient water treatment plants in Bright, Myrtleford, Whitfield and Eskdale as well as several new water pipe networks linking smaller towns to larger centres.
We also have a Drought Preparedness Plan that highlights our response for when a shortfall in water availability occurs. The Plan is tailored to each individual water supply system with trigger levels clearly indicating what actions are required and when. It is reviewed every five years or upon any supply system change. You can access the DPP here for more information.
We would urge people to save as much water as possible during this period so there’s less likelihood of restrictions in summer 2019-20.
Click here for some great water saving tips for the home and garden.
Permanent Water Saving Rules are also in place across Victoria. The rules include using a trigger nozzle on your hose to water the garden or wash the car, only using watering systems between 6pm and 10am, and not hosing concrete paths or driveways.
For further detail on the rules, click here.
Let us know if you observe someone breaking the Permanent Water Saving Rules by using this online form or calling 1300 361 622. We will investigate further.