ON THE DOWN LOW: This panoramic photograph of Bjelke-Petersen Dam was taken on Januray 10 and shows just how dire conditions have become since dam levels delved below four per cent this month. Photographer: Sheena Walsh.
ON THE DOWN LOW: This panoramic photograph of Bjelke-Petersen Dam was taken on Januray 10 and shows just how dire conditions have become since dam levels delved below four per cent this month. Photographer: Sheena Walsh.

Higher restrictions loom as dam levels plummet

SOUTH Burnett residents can expect to see heightened water restrictions as early as next month as local dam levels continue to be depleted due to ongoing drought conditions.

Images of Bjelke-Petersen Dam have surfaced on social media since levels have been reported dipping below the dreaded four per cent mark.

South Burnett Regional Council division one councillor, Roz Frohloff, said she's never seen the region's dams collectively look so dry.

"I'm a born and raised South Burnett local and in all my years here I've never seen our water supply get this dire," she said.

"But I would like to commend the community for being so diligent and water wise during this difficult time with this drought.

"On behalf of the South Burnett Regional Council I would like to thank everyone for being water responsible and trying to conserve wherever possible."

Unfortunately the councillor said unless the region receives some more rainfall in the next couple of weeks SBRC will be taking the necessary measures and stepping up to level four water restrictions come February.

This would reduce consumption usage per person per day from 160 litres down to 140 but residential watering restrictions would remain as they have been, with no watering on Mondays and odd numbers permitted to water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and even numbers permitted to water on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

However the council has revealed tit is currently reviewing its water restriction framework with daily restrictions expected to be adjusted according to a combination of factors including percentage of dam storage levels, announced percentage of yearly allocation and demand versus supply.

While Boondooma levels have remained fairly steady and are currently at 22.9 per cent, Sunwater experts say Bjelke-Petersen Dam levels haven't been this low since 2007.

"The lowest the dam has ever been since it was commissioned in the 1980s was 1.78 per cent back in 2007," a Sunwater spokesman said.

"So we've still got a while to go before we see the dam get that low again, but if the conditions the region has been receiving continue it is likely we will see a low of this kind occur again.

"Sunwater understands the significant pressure drought conditions are having on regional communities and our customers.

"Like them, we are hoping for much-needed rainfall in the coming summer season. We are working closely with stakeholders to deliver water in a way that minimises loss and maximises availability."

With Bjelke-Petersen Dam supplying water to Cherbourg, Murgon, Wondai, Tingoora and Yallakool camp ground, a large majority of the South Burnett relies on the dam for most of their residential water needs.

Bjelke-Petersen Dam back in May 2019 when levels were looking much healthier. Photographer: Bree Retschlag.
Bjelke-Petersen Dam back in May 2019 when levels were looking much healthier. Photographer: Bree Retschlag.

Currently at a worrying 3.63 per cent as of Januray 16, Cr Frohloff said Bjelke-Petersen Dam levels will continue to fall unless the region receives rainfall.

"We currently have 100 per cent allocation from Sunwater for residential use, meaning farmers do not currently have access to dam water," she said.

"Council are currently working closely with Sunwater and the Department of Natural Resources to ensure that levels won't reach zero.

"If conditions continue to stay as dry as they have been, SBRC would initiate an intervention and begin trucking in water.

"At this current stage in time with the con ditions we've been facing we're predicting Bjelke-Petersen Dam to reach dead storage by the end of 2020."

Dead pool storage is the water remaining in the dam that can't be discharged as it's lower than the discharge pipeline.

According to SBRC, Bjelke-Petersen Dam has a dead pool storage of 1000 mega litres or 0.74 per cent.

SBRC CEO Mark Pitt did confirm council has a number of emergency water plans in place if the worst does eventuate.

"If Bjelke-Petersen Dam ever becomes too low for supply there remains 500 mega litres of storage in the Murgon Weir that can be used to supply Murgon, Wondai and Tingoora, he said.


"Council is currently exploring alternative emergency water supplies."

South Burnett Water supply upgrades to cause significant disruptions

"All we can do now is continue to be as water wise as possible, conserving water whereever possible and continue to pray and hope for rain," Cr Frohloff said.

"It's just a matter of playing the waiting game now.

"Every day that passes is another day closer to rain."

The levels at BP Dam have reached worrying lows under four per cent, this photo taken on January 10 shows just how dry conditions have become. Photographer: Sheena Walsh.
The levels at BP Dam have reached worrying lows under four per cent, this photo taken on January 10 shows just how dry conditions have become. Photographer: Sheena Walsh.
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