THE RECENT DROUGHT IN THE state of New South Wales, Australia, has brought some of the state’s water supply and hydro reservoirs to their lowest levels since construction. Although some rain has fallen in the reservoir watersheds, the inflows have not been sufficient to raise the water levels significantly.

In the south of the state, water levels in the 112.2m high Blowering dam plunged to 2% capacity in May, the lowest level since the dam was constructed in 1968. The low water level at the Blowering reservoir prompted the authorities to restrict irrigation releases for the next two months. Blowering, a massive rockfill dam on the Tumut river, supplies water to Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. It also develops 60MW of power from irrigation releases.

Some of the other large storage dams, such as the Burrinjuck and Burrendong, have also fallen to some of the lowest levels in years. Burrendong on the Macquarrie river, which dropped to just 1.26% of its capacity in February, recovered to about 9% of capacity in mid May. Hume and Dartmouth, two large storages on the Upper Murray, also reached record lows this year with Hume dropping below 5% of its capacity. The 51m high Hume dam on the Upper Murray is augmented by releases from the 180m high Dartmouth dam on the Mitta Mitta river in Victoria.

In the meantime, the City of Sydney has called on its citizens to voluntarily conserve water to ease the drain on its water supply reservoirs, despite news that the Warragamba dam, which supplies 80% of Sydney’s water, has benefited slightly from rains in April and May.

The drought is exerting more pressure on the state government and utilities to build new storage reservoirs in other parts of New South Wales. A petition calling for a new water supply dam at Dunoon in northern New South Wales is being circulated by concerned community groups.
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