Lee Duffield

Edited by Lee Duffield
Freedom and Truth

Dry summer threatens relaxed water-users

A leading Brisbane scientist has warned Queenslanders against water restriction complacency ahead of a predicted dry summer.

Water-wise residents regularly check household tanks.

A Queensland climate scientist has warned south-east residents against water restriction complacency ahead of a predicted dry summer.

Five months after Premier Anna Bligh relaxed water restrictions in south-east Queensland, the state is bracing for a long, hot summer threatening to strain water usage.

Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) climate scientist Dr Jeff Sabburg says just because the state’s predicted rainfall looks ‘okay’, it does not mean the drought is over.

“Queensland is looking pretty good drought-wise apart from the extreme south-west region of the state,” Dr Sabburg said.

“Spring is looking like it may be a little dry but in terms of sufficient rainfall we’re about average, maybe just slightly below.”

However this slightly below average rainfall may take a hit over summer with an El Nino expected to hit the country.

“Going forward to summer El Nino usually relates to dry winds and warm conditions,” Dr Sabburg said.

“That means over three years we’ve gone from a very wet summer to neutrally wet to now dry … at the moment we’re okay but it doesn’t take too long for things to dry out.”

Just over 10 years ago Australia suffered through an El Nino that ended up contributing to one of the harshest droughts the country has seen.

Data on the SEQ Water website says Wivenhoe Dam was sitting at just 15.03 per cent capacity in August 2007 highlighting the severity of the drought.

The dam levels only began to peak significantly again in March 2008.

One of the key changes in Queensland during the drought was the State Government taking control of all water conservation plans and restrictions from the Brisbane City Council (BCC).

Getting the message

Councillor Peter Cumming, who has served for the last 15 years as the Wynnum Manly council representative, says residents seem to be reacting well to the state-determined Target 200 restrictions.

“The figures show people are obviously conscious of water usage and are making an effort to keep their own water consumption down,” Cr Cumming said.

“We’re at Target 200 now but people I think are only using about 140 litres each day so the message is getting through.

“It’s important we start the process off early and a lot of the schools are making conscious efforts to curb water use and educate students on conservation.”

School leaders

Padua College, a private Catholic boy’s school at Kedron in Brisbane’s north, has one of the leading school programs for environmental awareness and education.

Since 2001, Padua students have formed an ‘Environment Club’ and Director David Searle says it is very important environment and water education begins at school.

“I find that school students are enthusiastic about all environment issues and we should be targeting our children, because they are our next adult generation,” Mr Searle said.

“We have a dynamic group of boys who are very enthusiastic about making a difference and we are now seeing some changes in our water levels.”

Padua College has made numerous water-saving changes over the years including dual flush toilets, automatic turn-off water bubblers and 12 water tanks installed over two campuses.

Mr Searle said one of the more pleasing aspects about the program is a lot of the initiatives have been student driven.

“The students use the school’s water bill to track usage to monitor amounts and then make recommendations as to how the school can reduce consumption … [and] many schools are now reducing their water usage,” Mr Searle said.

After BOM reported an unusually-hot August in which the average water consumption figure per person in south-east Queensland spiked from 146 litres to 162 litres each day, Dr Sabburg cautiously warns Queenslanders to keep one eye on the future.

“Things aren’t looking that good with the El Nino coming up so don’t be too complacent with use of water,” he said.