Queensland receives unseasonal wild weather
Tuesday, October 19, 2010, 5:34 am
Since the weekend, South East Queenslanders have been experiencing crazy winds and torrential rainfall resulting in a combined dam capacity of 99 per cent for Brisbane’s three major dams.
All five of Wivenhoe dam’s floodgates were opened under instruction by SEQ Water on Wednesday, sending 130,000 megalitres of water a day directly into the Brisbane River.
All five floodgates have not been opened since 1999.
Although the rain has eased throughout the week, the Bureau of Meterology has warned of further heavy rain for the month, which led to the opening of the gates as part of Wivenhoe’s flood mitigation plan.
Some of this water is sent along the Toowoomba pipeline to Toowoomba’s Cressbrook dam which, although levels are rising, is still at below 25 per cent capacity.
Dan Spiller, Director of Operations with SEQ Water says that Toowoomba and other rural areas are delivered water purely based on their needs and that only minimal water can be sent along the pipeline.
“We are supplying water to Toowoomba as Toowoomba City Council requires it but it’s just a small proportion of what we’re releasing from the dam.,” he said,
The pipeline, which cost $112 million, was opened by Premier Anna Bligh at the beginning of the year and so far seems to be fulfilling its job, having increased water supplies from 7.8 per cent to 23.9 per cent.
Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman and Deputy Premier Paul Lucas have said Queenslanders need to prepare for the possibility of floods rivalling those in 1974.
If the rain continues to be as heavy as in recent days, that combined with the water being released from the dams could cause the Brisbane River to flood.
Heavy downpours, flooding and full dams such as those that have been witnessed over the past few days is similar to the circumstances leading up to the devastating flood that caused chaos around Brisbane in 1974 and resulted in 14 deaths.
Cr Newman said that no amount of engineering could prevent Brisbane from ever flooding again due to it being a “flood-prone city.”
Debris has been left strewn across Brisbane, particularly in the Brisbane River, where City Cat commuters were redirected to buses after ferry services were cancelled on Thursday to avoid collisions.
Although the effects of the rain are currently wreaking havoc in South East Queensland, it is expected it will be beneficial in the long-term by rejuvenating bushland, flushing out rivers and stimulating animal populations.
Farmers who were at first grateful for the rain are now becoming impatient as it is interferes with the sowing and harvesting season.
As they wait for its departure, many are assessing the damages that have been caused to their crop and are getting tired of waiting to harvest.
Brad Piffer of the Queensland Farmer’s Federation says “it’s getting quite frustrating for a lot of farmers.”
“They want to get out and work the ground, get the tractors moving, cleaning up the weeds and it’s getting into planting time as well,” he said.
Mr Piffer says the rain is beginning to have a negative effect on the farmers, especially up the coast where they are ready to harvest sugar and horticultural crops.
“I know in the cotton industry they’re ready to plant this seasons crops so they want to and get stuck into it but they need the ground to dry out so they can do that,” he said.
“We’ve had some rain now and we just need a bit of a break so farmers can get out and do the work that they need to.”
Although the dams are so full that South East Queenslanders are guaranteed drinking water until at least 2021, water restrictions still apply in Brisbane.
Mr Spiller says that although people should not become over-indulgent with their water consumption, water restrictions are probably a lot more lax than most people believe.
“You can water your garden six days a week at the moment. You can wash down your house and wash your car anytime you like,” he said.
“If we can keep our restriction below 200 litres per person per day, that lets us defer when we need the next major source of supple.”
Friday is expected to bring more rain to Brisbane as well as exceptional winds causing temperatures to reach nine degrees below average.
The rain is not expected to last the entire weekend and should be much lighter, meaning Wivenhoe’s spillway gates may soon be closed again.
“In the absence of any significant rainfall, all gates are expected to be closed by early next week,” water grid manager chief executive Mr Dennien says.
Surf Life Saving Queensland continues to warn that while water is being released into the river, people need to be careful at beaches, streams and river mouths.