No State Government help in sight
IN a worst case scenario, Korumburra could be on Stage 4 Water Restrictions by May next year and with no resolution in sight to what has long been acknowledged as an inadequate supply for a growing town.
Prior to her election in November 2014, Eastern Victoria MLC Harriet Shing promised to make progress on this key issue but more than 12 months on, nothing has happened.
Last Friday, Ms Shing was visiting the local area and agreed improvements were crucial.
“I would like to see Korumburra’s quick fill/quick drain water supply given greater security and for the town to be linked up with Lance Creek in the grid,” Ms Shing said, pledging her support for South Gippsland Water’s northern towns plan.
“I am working with the Water Minister on this and it’s crucial we make sure towns like Korumburra aren’t left high and dry as we head into a difficult and dry summer after very low rainfall.”
But that’s exactly what could happen if we continue down the present course of dry conditions, according to scenarios released by South Gippsland Water last week.
The local water corporation introduced the prospect of restrictions in Korumburra and in the Yarram district last week, saying that if the present dry conditions were to continue, Stage 1 restrictions could start as early as January next year.
Under Stage 1 restrictions water customers would only be able to water their gardens on alternate days, sporting grounds could only be watered on alternate days, except by hand-held hose or bucket, hosing of concrete would be banned and there would also be restrictions on washing cars.
Only 2000 litres of water would be available to top-up a pool or spa and pools over 2000 litre capacity would only be allowed to be filled with a permit.
Stage Four restrictions are much more stringent with all watering of sporting, private and public grounds banned, no washing of cars (except headlights and windows from a bucket for safety) other than in a commercial carwash using recycled water and no filling of pools and spas.
There would, however, be no restrictions placed on key commercial users like Burra Foods, or on schools and hospitals other than those relating to their grounds.
“Based on the Bureau of Meteorology outlook, there is some potential for restrictions to be introduced in both those towns (Korumburra and Yarram area),” said a spokesperson for South Gippsland Water.
“It all depends on demand and climatic conditions but what we are saying is that we can’t guarantee there won’t be restrictions in those areas.”
But even if Korumburra were to go on Stage Four Water Restrictions, it would not impact priority users like Burra Foods, said the water authority spokesperson.
In its ‘Water Security Outlook’ statement for November, South Gippsland Water claims forecast climate conditions for the coming three months, based on the Bureau of Meteorology’s seasonal climate forecast for the region, are likely to produce rainfall conditions over the next three months that are similar to the long-term average.
But they say, “temperatures are expected to be higher than the long-term average for this time of year, which is expected to increase demands”.
“The chances of exceeding median maximum temperatures over the next three months is rated at between 65% and 70%.”
The water authority also published a storage outlook for the Korumburra Water Supply System, for the period November 2015 to October 2016, which indicates “that without supplementary supply, storage levels are likely to fall below the trigger for restrictions”.
“South Gippsland Water has a plan in place to supplement supply, which would reduce the severity of restrictions under the anticipated average climate scenario.”
Less than average rainfall, however, will leave the Korumburra area critically exposed.
The Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, Lisa Neville, has responded to the water supply problems looming for Korumburra, Yarram and other parts of the state.
“The release of water security outlooks by Victoria’s water corporations shows a number of towns facing the possibility of water restrictions over summer if dry conditions continue,” she said.
“The outlooks show that while about three quarters of the State’s urban water supply systems have supplies that will see them avoid restrictions – particularly those connected to the water grid – about one quarter may require water restrictions over summer, if demands are high under dry and worst case scenarios.”
In Melbourne, where water storages remain above 70 per cent, water restrictions are not expected over coming months but households are urged to continue saving water particularly over the hotter months.
The 23 urban supply systems facing the possibility of low level water restrictions cover towns in South Gippsland, the Colac region, North East Victoria and North Central Victoria, she said.
The government says a range of potential supply and demand options are available and being further explored in these areas as contingency measures if low rainfall and inflows to storages continue.
As the Premier Daniel Andrews said in San Remo recently, even turning on the Wonthaggi desalination plant is a live option, although the Korumburra system is yet to be connected to the Lance Creek Reservoir and to the Melbourne Water supply.
“These outlooks show that under continuing dry conditions a number of towns may face low level water restrictions over coming months and we are currently developing a statewide drought preparedness statement which will include these areas,” Minister Neville said.
“Continuing dry conditions are placing significant stress on local communities and we are working hard on improving water access and increasing security of supply in the future.
“While Victoria is well placed to cope with drought, we want to have a conversation about the best use of the Victorian water grid to meet the challenges of dry conditions, climate change and population growth.”