Behind the Fairbairn Dam Spillway Aerial Photo 5.5m December 30th 2010. Emerald. Jodi Harrold.
Behind the Fairbairn Dam Spillway Aerial Photo 5.5m December 30th 2010. Emerald. Jodi Harrold.

Towns on water restrictions as dam level drops to record low

EMERALD'S Fairbairn Dam is expected to reach a record low by the middle of the year, pushing Emerald and Blackwater residents into level one water restrictions.

As of yesterday, Fairbairn Dam was sitting at 13.9 per cent.

Since the dam was completed in 1974, the lowest recorded storage level for the dam has been 11.8 per cent (152,940 megalitres) in December 2006.

Central Highlands' mayor Kerry Hayes said the level of the Fairbairn Dam was the trigger point for action for all towns except Rolleston and Capella.

"Our drought management plan sets out the water restriction level and when the dam reaches 15 per cent we move to level one," he said.

"Although, for the time being, it will only apply to Emerald and Blackwater because these are the two largest towns supplied by the dam.

"In actual fact, we have been on level zero restrictions for some years and that has always meant some restraint on water use.

"Under level zero, the use of sprinklers is set at specific days and hours, but hand-held hoses are allowed at any time."

Level one restricts the use of automatic watering systems and sprinklers further, affecting other activities that use water such as topping up ponds and pools, and washing windows and vehicles.

"We, as a council, have already made significant changes to our watering regime in public parks and gardens," Cr Hayes said.

"As we introduce level one water restrictions on our community we also increase the level of vigilance by council staff who are out and about to make sure people do not ignore their obligation to practice water conservation,' he added.

The $11.7 million upgrade to the Selma Main Channel system is also now under way.

The project includes re-lining a 34km section of the Selma Main Channel and it will significantly reduce water being lost during transport.

It will also make on average, an extra 6400ML of water available for end users such as farmers in the Emerald area to irrigate cotton, citrus and grain crops.

Fairbairn Dam has been sinking lower for a good part of the past 12 months.

In December 2018, it was at 15.93 per cent and in the June prior it was at 24.8 per cent.

Sunwater has advised Central Highlands Regional they expect the dam to reach the lowest level, 11.8 per cent in April 2019.

It is also predicted that by July 2019 it could be as low as 8.22 per cent if the wet season failed to bring rain to the catchment area.


  • Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for odd-numbered houses
  • Wednesdays, Fridays and Sunday for even-numbered houses
  • Micro-spray and drip systems with timers to be used between 7pm-8am for garden beds and shrubbery on alternate days. Lawns, 6-8am, 7-9pm, alternate days.
  • Sprinkler use between 6am-8am, 7pm-9pm on alternate days
  • Hand-held hoses, watering cans or buckets not restricted