Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 23 September 2010) . . Page.. 4473 ..
Corin, Bendora and the Cotter are pretty much full, and Googong to our east is sitting at about 65 per cent.
The Bureau of Meteorology has called this year a La Nina year. That is a weather pattern, as we know, that brings average rainfall to much of Australia, particularly inland eastern regions. So it is fair to say that, while our dam levels are up, this may be the result of a weather phenomenon that is all too infrequent and is contrasted somewhat by the far more common El Nino, which is often associated with an increased probability of drier conditions.
The ACT government and Actew have undertaken a lot of work on the territory’s water strategy over the past decade, including the major water security projects. It is fair to say that the Greens were always less enthusiastic about building a new large dam and were particularly opposed to a dam being constructed in the Naas Valley. Nevertheless, today we have the extended Cotter Dam project underway at a well-publicised cost of $363 million. Also awaiting commencement is the Murrumbidgee-to-Googong pipeline, transferring water from the Murrumbidgee at Angle Crossing to the Googong Dam.
When Actew announced the move from stage 3 to stage 2 restrictions, Actew Managing Director Mark Sullivan said:
ACTEW is confident that now is the right time to relax restrictions and farewell Stage 3; we do not expect to see a return to Stage 3 Water Restrictions …
I have heard some say that, with all that infrastructure to pay for, Actew would be delighted to lessen water restrictions and encourage us all to consume a bit more. But I do not want to take Mr Sullivan out of context here, because while he did voice that some people would enjoy getting back to watering their lawns and so forth, he continued on with a warning which I think we would do well to heed. He said:
Similar rainfall conditions in 2005 were followed by the driest year on record and a depletion of the ACT’s water storages to the lowest recorded levels. Over the last fifteen years our average inflow levels have decreased by 50% from the long-term average. The average reduction since 2006 has been more than 70%.
This is the crux of it—Canberrans need to realise that this probably is a reprieve, this wet year. We should probably enjoy the benefits it brings. No-one could possibly say that it is not great to see the grass around the city looking green. It has been good to know that the garden would probably survive without that high level of monitoring and that our older trees are not suffering such a high level of stress as they were after five years of low rainfall.
The reality is that the ACT’s rainfall until this point has been more closely aligned with CSIRO worst case scenarios—an average 75 per cent reduction in inflows, down to around 50 gigalitres per year from a long-term average of 200 gigalitres.
There was an interesting document in amongst all the documents that were prepared in the scoping out of the ACT’s future water options, and it included a table which gave an indication of how long the various projects and combinations of the various