LOWER Hunter dam levels have dropped to their lowest summer point in a decade.
Reduced rainfall means levels in Hunter Water’s four storages – Chichester, Grahamstown, Tomago and Anna Bay – have continued to fall over the past year.
The total storage level this week was 76.9per cent compared to 81per cent in March 2014. The overall storage was at 98per cent two years ago.
‘‘While the Upper Hunter has experienced one of the driest 12 months on record, coastal rains have been more plentiful,’’ Hunter Water spokesman Jeremy Bath said.
‘‘These rains have ensured that Grahamstown Dam and the sandbeds at Anna Bay and Tomago were able to supply the vast majority of the Hunter’s water needs last year,’’ he said.
Water restrictions will not be considered until storage levels reach 60per cent.
It’s estimated the region could last another six months without rain before that point is reached.
Chichester Dam, the region’s oldest water storage, dropped to 45per cent in August, the lowest it had been since 1992.
‘‘We actually reached a point where we had to pump water from Grahamstown Dam to top up Chichester,’’ Mr Bath said.
During the 1960s and late 1970s to early 1980s, Chichester was reduced to a duck pond surrounded by gaping cracks across the dam floor.
It will be two years at the end of February since the dam was full to the point of tipping over its spillway.
Hunter Water records indicate this – despite the long drought periods of last century – this would be the longest period in the dam’s 100-year history without a spill.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s latest three-month outlooks for temperature and rainfall indicate the likelihood of drier than normal conditions across most of eastern Australia.
The Bureau of Meteorology has also forecast the chance of an El Nino weather event has increased.
According to its latest long-range forecast, the chance of El Nino affecting Australia in 2015 was up to 70per cent. It was rated as only a 50per cent chance of occurring last year.
Further initiatives used to drought-proof the region include the introduction of water-wise rules and a new recycled water plant.
Combined, these two programs will save almost 4 billion litres of water a year.
Hunter Water storage levels, volume in megalitres
Full storage On 8/1/2015 On 11/12/2014 % full
Chichester 18,356 15,336 14,409 83.5
Grahamstown 182,305 140,477 141,209 77.1
Tomago 60,000 46,205 48,741 77.0
Anna Bay 16,024 10,820 11,035 67.5
TOTAL 276,685 212,838 215,394 76.9
Source: Hunter Water