Emergency Contact
The realities of rain

The realities of rain

Could you imagine South East Queensland without water? It’s a future no one wants to see. Our climate is changing and our population is growing. So how do we make sure we have the water we need, and don’t run out?

The dams we use for drinking water have served us well, but they count on rain falling where and when we need it.

So, if we can’t always count on the rain, what do we do?

The conversation starts here. Take a look around, get involved and let us know what you'd like your water future to look like.

Hide    Show   
Home What We're Doing The realities of rain

Realities of Rain is starting the conversation with South East Queensland communities about what we do when we can’t always count on the rain.

Why are we talking about rain?

Up until now, we’ve relied on dams for our water supply – but these count on rain falling where and when we need it.

Dams store water - they don’t make it. With the climate changing and our population growing, just having dams is not going to be enough for the future.

No one wants to see a South East Queensland without enough water to live, work and play the way we want to.

That’s why we’re planning now - and we want the community to be part of the plan we’re creating.

  • Water Wise Updates
  • Media
  • Key documents
  • Cedar Pocket Dam at 25 per cent capacity

    SEQ asked to be more water wise this Spring

    South East Queenslanders are being asked to look at ways they can be more water wise this Spring.

    Seqwater Chief Executive Officer Neil Brennan said South East Queensland (SEQ) was not in a drinking water drought but Water Grid dam levels had continued to decline over Autumn and Winter.

    Water Grid combined dam levels are now at 65.5% capacity, the lowest levels since the Millennium Drought.

    Wivenhoe Dam, the region's largest and most important drinking water source, is at 53% capacity, its lowest in more than a decade.

    Mr Brennan said the average water consumption across SEQ has returned to normal Autumn/Winter consumption levels of between 160-170 litres per person, per day.

    "With the warmer weather ahead, the challenge is to continue to be water wise," he said.

    "Moving into Spring, there is typically increased outdoor watering, so it's an ideal time for the community to consider its water use."

    The Bureau of Meteorology's seasonal outlook for September to November 2019 indicates a drier than average Spring for most of mainland Australia, noting South East Queensland has a 50% chance of above average rainfall.

    Seqwater is working in partnership with the region's water service providers Queensland Urban Utilities, Unitywater and the water businesses of Logan, Redland City and City of Gold Coast to best manage the region's water supplies.

    Queensland Urban Utilities CEO Louise Dudley said the community had retained many of its water saving habits since the end of the Millennium Drought.

    "However, with the dam levels continuing to fall, there are some simple things we can all do around our homes and gardens that can make a big difference," she said.

    "If you're gardening this Spring, try to avoid watering during the heat of the day. It's also a good idea to mulch your garden to help retain moisture."

    More tips are available from your water service provider and include:

    • fixing leaking taps and toilets as soon as possible
    • taking shorter showers
    • only doing full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine and
    • remembering to put your pool cover on when it's not in use.

    Seqwater will continue to closely monitor weather forecasts, catchment conditions and dam levels, and operate the SEQ Water Grid as required to best manage the region's water supply.

    The bulk water authority will also be refreshing its water wise education campaign launched in March this year to further encourage the community to look at ways they can reduce their water use.

    The campaign, run in partnership with the water service providers, will include water wise hints for around the house and tin the garden on social media including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn as well as on Seqwater's website at seqwater.com.au/waterwise

    Flood

    The Reality of Flood

    We can’t always count on the rain to stop falling when we want it to. As North Queensland experienced record floods in February 2019, South East Queensland had just endured one of its driest January's on record.

    Floods are a part of the climate in South East Queensland, and just as we plan for droughts, we have plans in place for when there are floods, too.

    Find out more about flood mitigation by reading our fact sheet and checking out the video of how we operate two of our gated dams, Wivenhoe and Somerset.

    Climate change

    The Reality of Climate Change

    We all know South East Queensland’s climate can vary – from storms and floods, to droughts and heatwaves. The climate has already changed and will continue to change – and SEQ will experience more extreme weather as a result.
     
    This is just one of the factors we need to take into consideration when planning for South East Queensland’s water future. We’ve already had a taste of this when the dams on the Sunshine Coast – normally our most reliable – experienced an unprecedented two wet seasons in a row with well below average rainfall.
     
    Although our Water Grid supplemented water supplies on the coast to slow the drawdown on the local dams, and eventually replenishing rains arrived - it brought home that without a climate resilient source, like a desalination plan or water treatment plant that can recycle water, the Sunshine Coast is vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
     
    That’s why we’re planning to have a new water source on the Sunshine Coast in the next 15 to 20 years.
    Check out our Climate Change Fact Sheet and Infographic for more information, or leave your climate change question on our discussion forum.
    Why dams can take longer to fill after dry spells

    The Reality of Rain After a Hot and Dry Summer

    So over the past week we've had some downpours and some places in South East Queensland have already received their average monthly rainfall for the entire month!

    So why didn't our dam levels rise very much? (They went up 0.8%. At current consumption this is about two weeks' of water supply).

    Check out our below, but in short, when the ground dries out during hot and dry weather, it takes more rain to generate run-off into our dams.

    Instagram API Required

    A water saving hose nozzle is a wise way to save water when gardening

    South East Queenslanders asked to be water wise

    South East Queenslanders are being encouraged to use water wisely at home and outside, with recent rainfall across South East Queensland having little impact on dam levels.

    The region’s combined drinking water supply fell below70% capacity today.

    With dam levels falling and dry conditions forecast over autumn and into winter, South East Queenslanders are being encouraged to be water wise.

    Seqwater Chief Executive Officer Neil Brennan said dam levels were the lowest they’ve been since February 2010.

    Despite some rain over the past month, dam levels still decreased by 1% from early March, with dry conditions across South East Queensland expected throughout autumn and winter,” Mr Brennan said. 

    “We have started a community education campaign across the region to encourage water wise behaviour such as checking household plumbing for leaks, not watering in the heat of the day and remembering to use pool covers.

    “By working with the community and carefully managing our water supply we can help delay and even potentially avoid the need for mandatory water restrictions.”

    The Bureau of Meteorology El Niño outlook remains on alert, with a likely forecast of warm and dry conditions continuing in 2019.

    Mr Brennan said SEQ water use peaked at a record 239 litres per person per day over January this year.

    “While the recent cooler weather has seen water use back to about 170 litres per person per day we are now heading into the traditionally driest period of the year. It’s a good time for all of us to start looking at ways we can better conserve water.”

    Seqwater will continue to closely monitor weather forecasts, catchment conditions and dam levels, and operate the Water Grid as required to best manage the region’s water supply.

    More tips on how to be water efficient are now available at www.seqwater.com.au/waterwise

    What you told us

    What you told us

    At the end of 2018, we spoke to residents of Moreton Bay, Sunshine Coast and Noosa in a series of deliberative engagement forums.

    We recruited 120 people across the region and asked them to share their thoughts and opinions on how they value water and their current knowledge of how water works in South East Queensland.

    We then provided information about how water might be managed in the future - including desalination, purified recycled water, decentralised schemes (like capturing and reusing stormwater) and things like water restrictions and daily water use targets.

    You can read a summary of what the communities told us here:

    We are currently holding forums in Logan, Scenic Rim and Gold Coast, and will also hold forum in Brisbane, Ipswich, Lockyer Valley and Redlands in the latter half of 2019.

    Timeline Pipes

    The Reality of Sharing Water

    It may seem strange that we are talking about preparing for drought when our drinking water dams levels are at 70% and some dams are even spilling! But the nature of South East Queensland's climate is some areas can receive lots of rain while others get none. We have a system to transfer treated water around the region so we can help each other out during dry times.

    Use a water saving trigger nozzle when watering your garden

    South East Queenslanders asked to be more water wise

    South East Queenslanders are being asked to start looking at ways to be more water wise.

    Seqwater Chief Executive Officer, Neil Brennan, said a community education campaign was set to start this week with the Water Grid combined dam level expected to fall to 70% capacity.

    “The combination of hot, dry conditions, high water use and little or no rain has seen dam levels fall steadily”, Mr Brennan said.

    “The Bureau of Meteorology predicts below average rainfall for autumn with warm conditions continuing into April.

    “It’s time to start the conversation with SEQ consumers about being more waterwise –especially with consumption per person hitting heights we’ve not seen since before the Millennium Drought.”

    Householders will start to see waterwise hints for around the house and in the garden from next week on social media including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn as well as on Seqwater’s website at seqwater.com.au/waterwise.

    Mr Brennan said average water use across SEQ for January and February was 211 litres per person per day or almost 25 litres per person higher than the same time last year.

    “In January, water use across SEQ peaked at a record 239 litres per person per day; the highest it’s been since before the Millennium Drought.,” he said.

    “There are some simple things we can all do that don’t impact on our lifestyle but could make a big difference.

    Seqwater will continue to closely monitor weather forecasts, catchment conditions and dam levels, and operate the Water Grid as required to best manage the region’s water supply.

    Tips on how to be water efficient are now available at www.seqwater.com.au/waterwise or from your water retailer and include:

    • Checking our household plumbing for leaks
    • Not watering in the heat of the day
    • Remembering to put your pool cover on when it’s not in use

     

    Water Grid

    The Reality of the Water Grid

    In South East Queensland, we count on our key drinking water dams to provide us with water to live, work and play. The SEQ Water Grid means we can move water around the region, which is especially important if one part of the region is experiencing an unusual dry spell, while another has enjoyed good rainfall.

    We saw this in the summer of 2016-17, when low rainfall in the north-east of the region left Baroon Pocket Dam, on the Sunshine Coast, and North Pine Dam, in Brisbane’s north, at about half their capacity. So we used the water grid to supplement Sunshine Coast water supply with treated water from Brisbane – usually destined for Brisbane’s northern suburbs - and increased production at our largest water treatment plants at Mount Crosby (near Ipswich) to supplement drinking water to Brisbane’s north.

    Check out our Water Grid video and fact sheet for more information.

    Drought

    The Reality of Drought

    I love a sunburnt country…a land of sweeping plains… of ragged mountain ranges… of droughts and flooding rains’ is a familiar refrain to many of us.
     
    South East Queensland has a climate of extremes – from storms and floods, to heatwaves and droughts.
    The reality is that another drought will happen in South East Queensland.
     
    While we are one region, dry conditions may persist in a part of our region – such as right now, in the Lockyer Valley, while others enjoy healthy dam levels – such as the Gold Coast.
     
    We may need to tailor our operational response to particular sub-regions, given the combinations of water sources they have and the ability of the SEQ Water Grid to move water to that sub-region.
     
    CASE STUDY: SUNSHINE COAST
    Our focus was drawn to the northern sub-region in 2017 after it experienced a second failed wet season in 2016-17, which was unusual. The two main major storages in the northern sub-region are Baroon Pocket Dam and North Pine Dam. From 2015, Baroon Pocket Dam and North Pine Dam were progressively drawn down as rainfall was insufficient to fully replenish them. The northern sub-region also relies on Ewen Maddock, Cooloolabin, Wappa and Lake Macdonald dams.
     
    • Baroon Pocket Dam is a relatively small storage with a volume of 61,000ML (equivalent to only 5% of the Wivenhoe Dam storage volume). The catchment that contributes flows to Baroon Pocket Dam has been a reliable source, historically using about 60% of its capacity each year.
    • The size and nature of Baroon Pocket Dam means that extended drought conditions can result in a decline of water levels and very limited time to implement contingency measures.
    • North Pine Dam has a larger storage with a volume of 214,000ML compared to Baroon Pocket Dam (equivalent to 18% of the Wivenhoe Dam storage volume).
    A key consideration for water supply in the northern sub-region is the time required to implement contingency measures in the event of extended drought conditions.
     
    The southern sub-region can access the Gold Coast Desalination Plant, while the central sub-region can use the Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme.
     
    The recent dry period has highlighted the vulnerability of the water storages in the northern sub-region to drought without appropriate water transfers from the central to the northern sub-region via the SEQ Water Grid. In 2017, the grid was used to transfer water to the Northern sub-region, supplementing the sub-regions local water supply. Seqwater continues to operate the grid in this manner. While the grid is able to provide water to this sub-region, its capacity is limited and cannot meet total demands without input from local water supplies.
     
    You can read more about this scenario in our Water for Life: Water Security Program - 2017 Annual Report
     
    The Sunshine Coast case study is an example of why we must plan for every possible scenario to ensure we have enough water to meet the needs of all of South East Queensland communities
    Realities of dams

    The Reality of Dams

    We have more dams in Australia than anywhere else in the world

    Australia is the driest inhabited continent. The large number and size of water storages is because we are an arid country with highly variable rainfall. There are more than 800 major dams in Australia. We have 26 of them here in South East Queensland.

    • Our newest dam is Wyaralong, in the Scenic Rim, which was completed in 2011.
    • Our largest dam is Wivenhoe, which can store a whopping 1.165 million megalitres of water
    • Baroon Pocket Dam is the largest dam on the Sunshine Coast, which holds 61,000 megalitres.
    • If we were to pour all the combined water from the Sunshine Coast's drinking water dams into Wivenhoe, it would only fill Wivenhoe to about 8% of its drinking water capacity.

    Need more water? Just build more dams!

    While we’ve relied on dams in the past, and they’ve served us well, dams can only store water if it rains when and where we need it to. All the prime locations for dams have generally already been snapped up.

    Unlike diamonds, dams are not forever

    Many of our dams were built more than fifty years ago (some even earlier). We regularly monitor and assess our dams and some have been identified for upgrades, so that they continue working as they should. But most dams only have a life expectancy of 50 – 100 years.

    On the Sunshine Coast, Baroon Pocket is the baby of the bunch, having been completed in 1988. Wappa Dam (1963), Lake Macdonald (1965), Ewen Maddock (1976) and Cooloolabin (1979) were all built nearly 40 years ago.Lake Macdonald will undergo a major upgrade in the next four years. We will complete the second stage of the Ewen Maddock upgrade - the first stage was completed in 2012. Upgrades of Wappa and Cooloolabin have been completed.
     
    Somerset (1959) and Wivenhoe (1984) will also be upgraded in the next five years.
     
  • More

FAQs

What is Realities of Rain?

Realities of Rain is starting the conversation with the South East Queensland community about what we do when we can’t always count on the rain.

In South East Queensland, we can count on all types of rain – there’s wedding day rain, long weekend rain, school holiday rain and just-polished-the-car rain.

In fact, the only rain we can’t count on, is rain when we need it, where we need it.

That’s why we’re planning our water future.

When will water restrictions be in place?

When the combined level of drinking water dams are above 70%, there is no need for conservation measures or water restrictions.

When they reach 60%, we will ask the community to voluntarily try to reduce their water use to 150 litres per person, per day. Mandatory restrictions will be introduced once the level reaches 50%.

Even when restrictions aren't in place, there are some simple things we can do to be more water efficient around the home, school and work. Check out our water saving tips https://seqwater-stage.seqw.atechnology.com.au/news/reality-sharing-water

Why are we talking about rain?

Without rain, we don’t have water to live, work and play. Up until now, we’ve relied on dams for our water supply – but these rely on rain falling where and when we need it. 

Dams store water - they don’t make it. With the climate changing and our population growing, just having dams is not going to be enough for the future.

No one wants to see a South East Queensland without enough water to live, work and play the way we want to. 

That’s why we’re planning now - and we want the community to be part of the plan we’re creating.

What is an off-grid community?

We provide bulk water services to urban communities that are not directly connected to the SEQ Water Grid.

Each community has its own water treatment plant and reticulation (piped water network) system.

Seqwater provides bulk water to 16 off-grid communities.

Amity Point, Beaudesert, Boonah-Kalbar, Canungra, Dayboro, Dunwish, Esk, Jimna, Kenilworth, Kilcoy, Kooralbyn, Linville, Lowood, Point Lookout, Rathdowney and Somerset.

You can read more about off-grid communities and how we’re planning for their water futures in Water for life: South East Queensland’s Water Security Program 2016-46.

What can I do now?

We’ve created a hub at yourseqwater.com.au to talk Realities of Rain. What we’d love for you to do is:

  1. Register for Realities of Rain e-news and be the first to know when great videos, articles and interesting facts are added to the hub.
  2. Read the plan – you can find it in the document library.
  3. Book a presentation – we're happy to come to you and talk all things Realities of Rain
  4. Be water wise – there are no conservation measures or water restrictions currently in place, there are some simple things we can do to be more water efficient around the home, school and work. Check the video library for some water wise tips.
  5. Start a conversation with your kids, family and friends about water in your community. Do you know where your water comes from? How it is treated? What is our plan is during a drought?
What's the plan?

The Water Security Program is Seqwater's plan for providing the region's drinking water over the next 30 years, including during times of drought and flood.

We released an updated Program in March 2017. Check out our eight-page guide, Water for life: 2017 Annual Report, with the latest information about how our water security program is performing.

We’re going to update the Water Security Program by 2022 and we want to hear your thoughts about what you think about water, it’s supply and things we should be considering when planning for the future.

How much energy does desalination use?

Modern desalination plants use advanced technology and energy saving devices which result in them being far less energy intensive than traditional plants.

The Gold Coast Desalination Plant’s use of energy saving devices, combined with carbon offsets, make it extremely energy efficient.

The plant has the capacity to produce 133 million litres of drinking water a day. To produce a million litres of water, the plant consumes about 3.2 megawatt hours (MWh) of energy.

At full production, the plant consumes about 412.3MWh of energy per day, making it one of the most energy-efficient desalination plants in the world.

While in hot standby mode, which means the plant is operating at a third of its capacity, energy consumption has been significantly reduced, saving energy and costs while the region’s water security remains high.

How much does desalination cost?

The desalination plant’s annual operating costs amount to about $12 million to $13 million per annum depending on production. Energy accounts for around 25 per cent of the total operating cost. The operating cost and capital charge for the Gold Coast Desalination Plant (GCDP) accounts for around nine per cent of bulk water charges, or about $33 a year for the average SEQ household bill.

Does desalination impact the environment?

A long-term independent marine monitoring program, designed in conjunction with the State Government and independent marine experts, is in place. It shows that the plant is operating in compliance with licence conditions which have been developed to prevent environmental impacts. Results show small plants and animal organisms are thriving on and around the underwater infrastructure. Footage shows that the sea water intake is providing a habitat for a diverse variety of marine organisms, effectively creating an artificial reef. Real-time monitoring of the quality of the brine discharged back into the ocean includes measurement of pH, chlorine, dissolved oxygen, temperature, turbidity and salinity.

Are we using recycled water now?

No, the advanced water treatment plants are not producing purified recycled water for drinking at the moment. But since they were built about 10 years ago, they have always been part of our drought response plan.

Our updated drought response plan, released in 2017, states the purified recycled water treatment plants will be re-started when our key drinking water dam levels reach 60%. This does not mean recycled water will be immediately added to Wivenhoe Dam – it could take up to two years to fully re-start the plants.

But due to our increased understanding of the grid’s capacity to move water around the region, and our intention to ask the community to make voluntary savings earlier when we suspect a drought may be imminent, we can delay the investment required to turn the plants back on until absolutely necessary.

Why produce purified recycle water?

Nature already provides us with recycled water but not always at the right place at the right time. Three purified recycled water treatment plants were built during the Millennium Drought to provide a climate-resilient drinking water source, even in extreme drought. With dam water levels across the region high, the scheme was placed in care and maintenance mode in 2014.

As part of Seqwater’s Drought Response Plan, we will start getting the plants ready to produce recycled water when the combined levels of our key drinking water dams reach 60% of their capacity. Restarting the scheme is estimated to take up to two years. This has not been attempted anywhere else in the world before.

By starting the remobilisation at this point, purified recycled water will be available when needed to replenish Wivenhoe Dam during a severe drought.

As South East Queensland continues to grow and with it our demand for water, the Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme is currently in the mix to provide water to meet the region’s demand.

What happens if we don't use purified recycled water?

If we don’t use our purified recycled water treatment plants to provide water, we will need to make up this water deficit with something else, most likely another climate-resilient source such as a desalination plant.

Construction costs for a new climate-resilient water source will run into the billions and would like result in water bills increasing for customers throughout South East Queensland. Using existing infrastructure, rather than build more, is one way we can help put downward pressure on water costs.

Remobilising and operating the scheme will cost a fraction of the amount needed if we were to build a new climate-resilient water source.