RUNNING DRY: What low water level means for region
Despite recent rainfall Wide Bay Burnett is still currently drought-declared and without any major inflows soon, one regional dam is looking dire.
As the storage level of Boondooma Dam is below 268.7m (approximately 70,000 megalitres or 34 per cent capacity), a Sunwater spokesperson said Stage 1 Critical Supply Arrangements are in place and releases for medium priority allocations have ceased.
The current water level for Boondooma is 29.27 per cent.
"If conditions allow, some medium priority customers can continue to access water from water holes," the spokesperson said.
"Water can also be accessed from sand beds, providing the appropriate permits are in place from the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water.
"The announced allocation for high priority customers, which includes Tarong Power Station, is 100 per cent."
Boondooma Dam was purpose-built for the original Tarong Power Station in the early '80s and is the primary source of water supply for the power stations.
Since the dam was filled, it has dropped below 34 per cent capacity several times, the lowest level recorded was 5 per cent in November 1995, according to Sunwater's historical dam capacity records.
The spokesperson said Stage 1 Critical Supply Arrangements would remain in place until the storage level was equal to or above 268.7m.
The Tarong power stations, owned by Stanwell, include the 1,400MW Tarong Power Station and 443MW Tarong North Power Station; which are located 45km south east of Kingaroy in the South Burnett region.
A Stanwell spokesperson said the power stations generally use between 25,000 ML - 29,000 ML per annum.
"The Tarong power stations are water cooled and require a reliable and consistent supply of water for operations," the spokesperson said.
"While most cooling water is evaporated, remaining water (around 6,000 ML per year based on 25,000 ML of water used) is discharged into Meandu Creek, which is then utilised by downstream irrigators, primarily citrus growers."
Under its Water Supply Agreement with SunWater, Stanwell has access to 29,270 ML per year of high priority water allocations from Lake Boondooma.
"To mitigate against prolonged drought, Stanwell has a secondary water arrangement with Seqwater to provide water from Lake Wivenhoe and/or from the Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme which produces purified recycled water," the spokesperson said.
"Stanwell is mindful of the current and future impacts the drought is having on the South Burnett community.
"In order to manage the impact of drought, in October 2019, Stanwell adjusted its short-term water supply strategy by sourcing a higher proportion of water from Lake Wivenhoe.
"Additionally, in June 2020, Stanwell started taking 15-20 ML per day of purified recycled water to assist in alleviating pressure on Lake Wivenhoe and help preserve water for urban needs, while also improving underlying water efficiency at the power station."
The spokesperson said Stanwell worked closely with government and community leaders in the development of a long-term water strategy for the Tarong power stations.
"Stanwell also regularly meets with the Meandu Barker Creek Water Advisory Committee (which includes downstream users and irrigators), to discuss their preferences and Stanwell's long-term water strategy," they said.
Sunwater spokesperson said the company was providing Boyne River and Tarong Water Supply Scheme customers (including irrigators) regular updates regarding water availability.
"We understand the significant pressure drought-conditions are having on our customers and are hopeful that there will be inflows into Boondooma Dam during the wet season to ensure ongoing water security and business confidence," the spokesperson said.
"We encourage customers to contact Sunwater directly on 13 15 89 should they have any questions regarding announced allocations for the Boyne River and Tarong Water Supply Scheme."