In South East Queensland, we live in a climate of extremes. And part of living here means being ready to adapt our water use in times of drought and flood.
No matter where you are in the region, it's important we develop good water habits so we have enough to meet future demand.
On 24 March 2017, we released our updated Drought Response Plan as part of the Water Security Program 2016-46. A key change to our region's drought strategy is the introduction of a drought readiness phase which prepares the region for the possibility of drought.
The drought readiness phase starts when the combined levels of our 12 water grid dams reach 70%. This phase is about getting ready for the possibility of drought and encouraging South East Queenslanders to be more water wise.
We have almost reached the drought readiness trigger twice in 2017 - in March and October. On both occasions, the rainfall events have boosted water supplies.
The increase in drinking water supply has delayed the need to implement the region’s drought readiness phase, but it is still important for the community to be waterwise, particularly on the Sunshine Coast.
While there is no need for conservation measures or water restrictions at this level, there are some simple things we can do to be more water efficient around the home, school and work.
The biggest water savings can be made outside the home. Here are five simple water wise tips:
- BEFORE 10AM AND AFTER 4PM: This is the best time to water outside. If you water in the heat of the day, you can lose up to 50% of the water to evaporation.
- CHECK FOR LEAKS: You can lose thousands of litres of water a day without even know it due to underground leaks. Many leaks are underground so you may need to use your water meter to check for leaks at home and in your irrigation system.
- MULCH IT: A good mulch will help your plants retain water through the scorching summer days and reduce weeds that also compete for water.
- USE YOUR POOL COVER: Pool covers reduce evaporation by about 90%.
- CHECK HOW MUCH WATER YOU USE: Do you really know how much water you use? Use the water audit tool to calculate what appliances are your water guzzlers, where you're using a lot of water and opportunities to make savings.
- Install water efficient devices and appliances
- Take shorter showers
- Do full loads in the washing machine and dishwasher
- Don't leave the tap running to brush your teeth or rinse fruit and vegetables - half fill the sink instead
- Fix leaking taps and toilets as soon as possible.
How to be waterwise during a heatwave
Be prepared for a heatwave and drink water regularly. General advice is to drink two to three litres of water a day.
- Water the garden before 10am or after 4pm. Avoid the heat of the day – you’ll lose a lot of the water to evaporation, and put yourself at risk of heat stroke!
- Use a good mulch – this slows moisture loss from your plants and lawn. For advice on an appropriate mulch, contact your local nursery.
- Keep your pool cover on when the pool is not in use.
- Use the water from your rainwater tanks on the garden – heatwaves can be broken by storms and rain!
Further heatwave tips are available at https://www.qld.gov.au/emergency/dealing-disasters/heatwave
Your water service provider also has more great tips on how to be water efficient:
Frequently asked questions
What does the Drought Readiness phase involve?
One of the key lessons from the Millennium Drought was the importance of engaging with the community early when continued dry conditions indicated the possibility of future drought.
The Millennium Drought showed our community’s willingness to play their part in helping to conserve our drinking water early.
Taking this into account, Seqwater amended its South East Queensland Drought Response Plan in March 2017 which includes a drought readiness phase designed to better prepare the region for the prospect of drought.
The phase is triggered when the combined grid dam levels drop below 70% and involves a water efficiency campaign that encourages the community to use water wisely while the dry conditions continue
What should I be doing during this Drought Readiness phase?
Until a drought response is triggered (when the grid’s combined levels reach 60%) we encourage you to:
- Monitor your water use so you understand how you use water and where savings can be made
- Use water efficiently
- Check for water leaks and repair to ensure water is not being wasted
- Keep an eye on the media and monitor Seqwater’s social media channels to understand the dam levels and messaging from Seqwater and your SEQ Service Provider
When are mandatory water restrictions likely to be introduced?
Mandatory region-wide water restrictions will be implemented when the grid’s combined dam levels reach 50% capacity.
With the availability of the water grid, region-wide water restrictions would not be required until at least late-2018.
If mandatory water restrictions are introduced at 50% regional dam capacity, they will be in place across the entire South East Queensland region and ask residents to target 140 litres of water per person per day.
Can I top up my empty rainwater tank with town water?
You are currently allowed to use town water to water your garden, top up your pool and for all other outdoor water use activities.
Currently there are no water restrictions on these uses, but you are encouraged to remain efficient in your water use and monitor your consumption to ensure you are aware of increases in your use.
Water saving tips include: keeping the pool cover on when the pool is not in use, washing your car on the lawn using a trigger action hose nozzle on the hose or a high pressure water cleaner, or avoiding watering the garden in the heat of the day (avoid 10am – 4pm), and using water saving mulch to reduce water lost to evaporation
What is Seqwater doing to ensure we don’t go into drought again / run out of water?
Seqwater is responsible for water security in South East Queensland and in line with its legislative responsibility has developed and amended its Water Security Program – a long term plan to manage water security across the region.
This Program includes triggers for activating drought response and actions that aim to manage the water supply and demand to ensure that the region does not run out of water.
The biggest single change since the Millennium Drought has been the construction of the Water Grid which allows Seqwater to move treated drinking water around the region.
The connected water treatment plants and pipelines across the Water Grid, and the availability of the Gold Coast Desalination Plant and the Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme to respond to drought, means the region has more resources at its disposal to manage drought than ever before
Why are we being asked to conserve water after significant investment in climate-resilient water sources?
The Water Grid and the availability of climate-resilient infrastructure like the Gold Coast Desalination Plant and the Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme has provided us with the means to better manage drought conditions. However this infrastructure only mitigates the effects of drought - it does not prevent severe drought.
Seasonal rainfall is still important because it replenishes surface water in dams, which account for most of South East Queensland’s water supply.
It is important to remember that in South East Queensland, we live in a climate of extremes and need to be ready to adjust our water use when conditions change.
We are one region with one water supply. Everyone needs to be water efficient, even when parts of our region experience drier conditions than other areas.
By better managing our water supply we can help delay and even potentially avoid the need for mandatory water restrictions
What is Seqwater doing to prepare for climate change?
Seqwater regularly monitors the level of water in our dams (the drawdown), rainfall frequency, duration and volume. This is compared to previous data to understand any significant changes.
Seqwater is also aware of, and is considering climate information for South East Queensland available from the State Government and other organisations. This information will form part of the considerations for the types of water supply options for South East Queensland into the future.
At the same time Seqwater is developing a business wide Climate Resilience Strategy to deal with the many impacts of a changing climate. Seqwater has worked with the State Government in the development of the Strategy and it features as a case study within the Queensland Government’s own Climate Adaptation Strategy.
I am noticing an increase in water tankers taking water, what are they doing?
There has been an increase in water tanker use delivering water to properties not connected to the town water supply as their rainwater tanks have now run dry.
There are also other reasons for the use of town water via a tanker such as filling swimming pools, roadworks and dust suppression.
The taking of this water is managed through the South East Queensland Water Retailers through a permit or licensing system. If you are concerned about how or what water is being taken for by the tanker, please contact your relevant South East Queensland Water Retailer.
When will industry be asked to save water?
Many businesses have retained their water efficiency since the Millennium Drought and will continue to do so over the years to come.
At 60% water conservation and business and industry voluntary programs will be made available containing information for businesses to conduct their own audit of your to investigate further water efficiencies in their businesses.
When the water grid level hits 25% mandatory restrictions targeting outdoor water use will be introduced.
Seqwater will work with peak industry bodies to encourage appropriate water efficiencies for that industry type.
Will you close or restrict recreation at lakes if water levels continue to drop?
Seqwater endeavours to keep recreation open at its recreational lakes, however if water levels drop to a point that recreation activities become unsafe, restrictions and subsequent closures may be required.
This is consistent with our approach across all our recreation lakes to best ensure the safety of the public.
We appreciate any closure impacts on recreation users, especially during the summer and holidays but Seqwater has a duty of care to close recreation if public safety is at risk.
If areas are closed or restricted, we will seek to re-open as soon as it is safe to do so. Seqwater informs and updates local stakeholders of potential closures before they take place.
Where can I find the amended Drought Response Plan?
On 24 March 2017, Seqwater released South East Queensland’s updated Drought Response Plan, developed as part the Water Security Program 2016 – 2046, our long-term water plan for the region. A key change to our region’s drought strategy is the introduction of a drought readiness phase to help better prepare the region for the prospect of drought.
More about our Drought Response Plan is on page 10 of our Water Security Program 2016-46.