LOWER AND LOWER: The water level continues to drop at Fairbairn Dam.
LOWER AND LOWER: The water level continues to drop at Fairbairn Dam. Sophie Letitia

Dam well on its way to lowest-ever level

CURRENT level 1 water restrictions could be upgraded to level 2 by early next month if rain does not bring much-needed relief to the region.

Bureau of Meteorology figures this week showed the dam was at 12.1 per cent, which is just 0.3 per cent higher than the lowest recorded capacity of 11.8 per cent (152,940 megalitres) in December 2006.

If there are below average, or minimal, inflows to the dam, its level is predicted to fall below 11.8 per cent by early next month.

Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Kerry Hayes said the council was working with its drought management plan to focus on dealing with the low levels and any new restrictions would continue to apply to the main population areas of Emerald and Blackwater.

"It's certainly on the cards. You can never be sure as to the time frame for when it will get to level 2 but with no inflows it can get there quite quickly," Cr Hayes said.

Level 1 restrictions were applied when the dam reached 15 per cent last month and it has since remained hot and dry.

Cr Hayes said residents should get in the practice of saving as much water as possible by using timed watering devices and watering late in the evenings and early mornings.

"We might only spend a month on level 1.

"Clearly, in terms of probability, winter is our less reliable rainfall, and we really need to get into the practice of saving as much water as possible."

"I suppose history says that any time the dam has gotten really low, it's filled up quickly, and in a significant event it can fill very quickly."

However, he said traditionally at this time of year significant rainfalls were not expected.

Level 2 water restrictions direct that lawn areas must not be watered at any time, micro spray and drip systems fitted with timers can be used between 7pm and 8am on alternate days, sprinklers must not be used at any time and hand-held hoses, watering cans or buckets can be used at any time.

Level 2 also restricts public garden watering, filling of ponds which requires permission from the Authority, that fountains must only operate with recycled water and lost water must not be replaced.

There are also restrictions on car cleaning, pavement cleaning, window cleaning and tank filling.

A spokesperson for SunWater said this week they were working closely with the council and the community.

"We understand the significant pressure drought conditions are having on our customers."

The spokesperson said that if there were no inflows into Fairbairn Dam before July 1, the announced allocation for high priority entitlements would be below 100 per cent and medium priority entitlements is expected to be zero per cent.

"With this possibility in mind, we have been working with our customers to maximise benefits to the region for the 2019/20 water year.

"One of these benefits includes confirming that both medium and high priority customers will be able to carry-over unused water allocations from 2018/19 into the 2019/20 water year, subject to the scheme's operating rules."

The spokesperson said recreational users and visitors to the dam should be aware of exposed and submerged hazards and "exercise caution at all times".

For the past few years, the region has been on level 0 restrictions which has restricted sprinkler use to specific days and hours but has allowed hand-held hoses at any time.