Fairbairn Dam receives much needed inflows

Emerald's Fairbairn Dam at 21.53 per cent capacity after receiving much needed inflows

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After years of low water allocations in the Fairbairn Dam catchment, Sunwater has announced medium priority water allocations for the Nogoa Mackenzie Water Supply Scheme have increased to 66 per cent.

After years of low water allocations in the Fairbairn Dam catchment, Sunwater has announced medium priority water allocations for the Nogoa Mackenzie Water Supply Scheme have increased to 66 per cent.

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Central Highlands farmers have welcomed the news that Fairbairn Dam is now at 21.53 per cent capacity.

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SIGNIFICANT rainfall totals across the Central Highlands region has seen Fairbairn Dam, near Emerald, receive much needed inflows after years of experiencing low levels.

Since March 14, the Fairbairn Dam has risen 82,000 megalitres to almost 280,000ML, or 21.53 per cent capacity.

The last time the dam was at more than 20pc was in July 2019, however it fell to a historic low of 7.39pc in December 2020.

A Sunwater spokesperson said it was promising to see good rainfall across the Central Highlands region.

"Sunwater is pleased some landholders in the region will have received water for their storages," the spokesperson said.

"Sunwater understands how important water security is for customers in Emerald and the surrounding regions.

"Due to the rainfall, announced allocations for the Nogoa Mackenzie Water Supply Scheme were reviewed.

"As a result, the medium priority announced allocation has increased."

The allocations have been revised to:

  • High Priority: 100pc
  • Medium Priority: 66pc (previously 22pc) (Zone E to Zone N)
  • Medium Priority: 66pc (previously 30pc) Tartrus Weir (Zone B to Zone D)

Sunwater is hoping for further rainfall in the coming months that may increase allocations.

Fairbairn Dam, the state's second biggest after the Burdekin Falls Dam, fell to 7.39 per cent capacity back in December 2020, the lowest level since the dam's construction in 1972. Picture: Ben Harden

Fairbairn Dam, the state's second biggest after the Burdekin Falls Dam, fell to 7.39 per cent capacity back in December 2020, the lowest level since the dam's construction in 1972. Picture: Ben Harden

'Game changer' for farmers

Emerald irrigator and cotton grower Robert Ingram, Avondale, welcomed the recent rainfall in the region after years of low water allocations.

The Ingrams planted 182 hectares of cotton back in January inside the Bollgard planting window, which was extended for two weeks into January.

Mr Ingram said he planted on no allocation at all and on a punt.

"We planted cotton the first week of January and we had the first irrigation, which was out of that 6pc water allocation, then we went to 22pc and now we're on 66pc," Mr Ingram said.

"We'll have plenty of water for our cotton and plenty of water for our corn which will be a game changer for us."

Mr Ingram said the recent inflows into the dam will mean local growers will be able to budget going forward.

"This has been four to five years now that we've been in this position, where we haven't finished a year on 100pc water allocations," he said.

"The whole central Queensland area has really missed out on this rain event."

Water restrictions ease to level 0

The Central Highlands Regional Council also welcomed the recent deluge which has resulted in the easing of water restrictions in Emerald, Blackwater and Bluff.

The council made the decision to ease restrictions to level 0 on March 24 after assessing the Fairbairn Dam level and deemed inflows enough to enable the relaxation.

Level 0 restrictions double the time period in which residential lawns and gardens can be watered with a sprinkler to a four-hour window in the morning (5am to 9am) and evening (7pm to 11pm).

Restrictions also do not apply to properties with their own water allocations or water licenses.

Central Highlands Mayor Kerry Hayes welcomed Sunwater's announcement and said the region's growers will now have sufficient water to finish their crops.

"Certainly the rainfall that has fallen in the last probably four to six weeks has been a real game changer," Cr Hayes said.

Council said they will continue to monitor the water storage levels in accordance with its water restrictions guideline.

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