Water restrictions on way
By SAMANTHA HEALY
AS the water level at Clarrie Hall Dam continues to drop, the first phase of water restrictions will%begin next week.
While Tweed residents will not be forced to watch every drop until at least November, external water carriers will no longer be able to take the precious resource out of the shire from Monday. All external water sales will be banned, marking the first time since 2004 that the normally water-laden Tweed has had to worry about our envied, liquid gold.
Clarrie Hall Dam is expected to drop below 90 percent capacity this weekend, with natural flows in the Tweed River now down to a trickle.
"It's been extremely dry," Tweed Shire Council water manager David Oxenham said yesterday.
"And we are moving into our drier part of the year, so we have to start taking precautions."
The dam, a significant component in the Tweed's water supply system, is also bolstered by the Tweed River.
"We're very different from other areas in that we have a heavy reliance on river flows as, historically, our good rainfall has meant we didn't need the larger storage areas they have at other dams," Mr Oxenham said.
"But once we're relying on the dam for our supply, the period of time we have until the supply runs out is relatively short."
This year, Murwillumbah has recorded just 433.2 millimetres of rain in Bray Park, 666 millimetres short of the average rainfall for the same period.
And on both sides of the Tweed Shire, restrictions are now in place.
Level-one restrictions were put in force in the Ballina, Byron, Richmond Valley and Lismore council areas on Tuesday, with the Rocky Creek Dam dropping below 60 percent.
Over the border, south-east Queensland has been on tough level-five water restrictions since April, with dam levels at a meagre 17 per cent.
If decent rain does not fall by November, Tweed residents can expect mandatory restrictions on water use, but even council admits those restrictions are not set in stone just yet.
"We haven't really developed such restrictions for level one yet," Mr Oxenham said.
If restrictions are put in place in November, residents can expect the use of sprinklers and fixed%hoses to be banned, along with the refilling of existing swimming%pools.
Hand-held watering will likely be permitted for one hour each day between 6.30pm and 7.30pm.
In 2003, the Clarrie Hall Dam reached just 35 per cent capacity, its lowest level since 1986.