24 March 2021

Water storages reach highest levels in almost two decades

Hunter Water’s storages have risen to levels not seen in almost two decades after a deluge of rain over the past week.

The last time our catchments were this full in percentage terms was in August 2001, however Grahamstown Dam’s wall was raised four years later, so our potential capacity increased.

This means the most water, by volume, ever recorded is currently being held across Hunter Water’s four sites – Grahamstown, Chichester Dam, Tomago Sandbeds and Anna Bay Sandbeds.

As of Wednesday 24 March, the total storage was 99.5%, which represented an increase of 34% from one year ago and a 47% rise from the depths of the drought in February 2020.

Grahamstown Dam, which began spilling last week for the first time since January 2016, Chichester and Tomago all sit at 100% capacity, while Anna Bay recorded 91.5% - up more than 20% from a week ago.

“What a difference a year makes. We’re essentially as full as we can be, and we’re in a great position in terms of our water storages into the future.”
Clint Thomson, Hunter Water Executive Manager of Service Delivery for Customers

“We’re seeing the highest storage levels we’ve seen since 2001, slightly more than after the Pasha Bulker storm in 2007 and the April super storm in 2015.

“However, we’ve had much more rain this time in Port Stephens, so the overall percentage is the highest,” said Mr Thomson.

The sustained heavy rain has led to stormwater and debris affecting our wastewater system, causing some impacts, including overflows.

“Our general advice after rainfall events is to avoid contact with stormwater and floodwater, check the Beachwatch website, and avoid swimming in the natural environment for a couple of days after heavy rain.

“Now the sun’s out, stormwater flows will subside, floodwaters will recede and the pressure on the wastewater system will reduce. Hunter Water field crews have been working non-stop since last Thursday and will continue to work through the issues as conditions further improve,” said Mr Thomson.

Widespread rain since Thursday 18 March saw more than 250mm fall across Hunter Water’s area of operations.

This included 387mm at Charlestown, 182mm further inland at Cessnock, and over 400mm at Nelson Bay in three days alone.

Mr Thomson added safety had been Hunter Water’s highest priority during the wet weather.

“It shows in the hundreds of hours that staff have worked while dealing with this event at all hours and in challenging conditions.

“I have personally been happy to see and hear safety conversations about fatigue, road conditions, weather, and how we have managed potential hazards for our customers.

“This is living Hunter Water’s values,” said Mr Thomson.

The near-full storages in the Lower Hunter means water restrictions are very unlikely to be imposed anytime soon.

“While it’s good news the region’s water storages have filled quickly, they can also fall quickly, so Hunter Water continues to encourage the community to make Smart Water Choices.

“After lifting level 1 restrictions back in October, our new normal is Smart Water Choices, for example 4-minute showers, sweeping not hosing hard surfaces, and turning off the tap while brushing teeth.

“They’re the sorts of everyday, common sense habits all of us can do to Love Water,” said Mr Thomson.