Driest December in 41 years hits Tweed Valley
THE Tweed Valley is experiencing its driest December in 41 years, with water carriers forced to work through Christmas to top up desperate rural householders' rain tanks.
So far Murwillumbah has only had 14.7mm of rainfall, compared with the average of 170mm, while Tweed Heads and Coolangatta have not fared much better, with just 24.2mm falling.
Weatherzone meteorologist Ben Domensino said an inactive monsoon season was the main culprit, with Tweed also expected to miss any major flooding early next year.
"We've had lots of strong cold fronts and troughs, which also contributed to the lack of rain," he said.
"The next driest period for the area was back in 2001, when Murwillumbah got 32.6mm of rainfall.
"Over the Christmas period there is a chance of a few showers, but nothing really significant until the new year."
Mr Domensino said it had been "a year of extremes across the country", but no data indicated it was anything to worry about at this stage.
"You can't really put it down to climate change or anything like that," he said.
"There's just not enough data to jump to any conclusions like that.
"It's certainly not the norm; it's just the optimal conditions for a really dry patch of weather."
J&L Wise Water Supplies co-owner John Wise was kept busy keeping tanks full over the Christmas period, working right through to ensure rural residents weren't left high and dry.
"It's been a bit hectic at the moment; I've been doing a lot of domestic tank fills," he said.
"I thought I'd get Christmas Day off, but we had eight or nine tanks to fill and people were getting desperate.
"I think I'll work through the New Year, too.
"Until we get some more rain it'll just get busier and busier. Business has definitely been good."
About 15% of shire residents are not connected to the town water supply.
At least four water carters operate in the Tweed and Mr Wise said they were all currently busy, due to the extremely dry conditions.
"There's a lot of country to cover here, so I reckon we've all got to be doing okay," he said.
"I don't mind the work at the moment. But I'd say everyone's looking forward to a good splash of rain."
Mr Wise reminded those on tank water to "give us a bit of notice", so carters are able to meet the strong demand and residents avoid running dry.
Murwillumbah: 14.7mm this December, average of 170mm.
Tweed Heads/Coolangatta: 24.2mm this December, average of 160mm.
Murwillumbah's wettest December was in 2010 with 499.9mm.
Tweed Heads/Coolangatta's wettest December was in 2010 with 493.8mm.