A RECORD low reading of rainfall for February and scant prospect of rainfall over the next month could lead to the Shoalhaven being placed on water restrictions by the end of March.
In February, Nowra recorded just 13.2mm of rain, a long way short of the average of 152.7mm.
February is traditionally one of the area’s wettest months but this year’s meagre total even beats the previous low of 65.2mm in 2011 by 52mm.
And it could have been a single figure reading, except for the 4.6mm the area has received in the past week.
Shoalhaven Water director Carmel Krogh said if the area, and in particular the upper catchments of the Shoalhaven and Kangaroo rivers, didn’t receive significant rainfall in the next month the Shoalhaven could be placed on water restrictions.
Water for the region is drawn from the Shoalhaven River at Burrier and pumped into a storage dam at Bamarang.
“At the moment the Shoalhaven River is flowing into Tallowa Dam at just under 100 megalitres per day,” she said.
“When flow drops below 90 megalitres a day under our licence council can no longer pump from the river.
“That means we have to rely on our storages in Bamarang Dam.
“At the moment Bamarang is sitting at 90 per cent capacity but under council’s drought management procedures if it drops to below 60 per cent we implement level 1 water restrictions.”
Mrs Krogh said if Bamarang couldn’t be topped up there would be between five and six weeks before restrictions would need to be implemented.
Level 1 restrictions involve a ban on fixed sprinklers, unattended hoses and using water on paved surfaces.
She said provisions were made under water restrictions for commercial water users such as nurseries.
“Even though it is a concern, we are still much better off than a number of other places that are already on more severe water restrictions at the moment,” she said.
“The people of the Shoalhaven are using water wisely.”
While for many years the REMS Scheme has been the saviour for local farmers, meaning they are able to irrigate their parched paddocks, Mrs Krogh said even that supply was feeling the pressure of the area’s big dry.
“Farmers are also facing a restricted supply of irrigation water from the REMS scheme,” she said.
“Due to the demand for water by farmers and because there hasn’t been any rainfall to help top up the 600-megalitre storage dam at Coonemia, it is holding just 80 megalitres.
“The area’s REMS plants are producing five megalitres of water a day and that is all going out to the local farmers.
“Usually in these dry times farmers can access more water through the scheme if it’s available.
“But at the moment whatever is coming in, is going out.
“Farmers certainly aren’t getting as much as they would like.”