Why isn't Canberra in temporary water restrictions?

We all know that water is a precious resource. 

Canberra and Queanbeyan are not in temporary water restrictions, but we have had Permanent Water Conservation Measures in place since 2010.

With a hot summer, continuing dry conditions and the memory of the Millennium Drought still fresh for many, it’s understandable that Canberrans are asking about temporary water restrictions. 

Why isn't Canberra in temporary water restrictions?

Why not go into temporary restrictions just in case?

How does Icon Water decide if we go into temporary water restrictions? 

What can I do to save water?

 
 

 Water restrictions infographic

Why isn't Canberra in temporary water restrictions?

  • Our four dams are currently under 50 per cent full. That might sound worrying but Canberra’s water supply is still secure. Enlarging the Cotter Dam in 2013 meant that we now have a much bigger bucket – about 35 per cent bigger.  
  • We also have a lot of levers we can pull - we have four dams across two water catchments, two water treatment plants and options like the Murrumbidgee to Googong pipeline, which can help top up our storage when conditions are right.  
  • Even though we are in a better position than we were during the Millennium Drought, if our modelling, consumption patterns and the weather outlook tell us we need to, we won’t hesitate to put temporary restrictions in place. 
  • Trusting that Canberrans will reduce their water usage and based on historical data, our modelling indicates that we don’t need to impose temporary water restrictions just yet.

Why not go into temporary restrictions just in case?

  • For several reasons, temporary restrictions are not something we impose lightly – there are major considerations we must balance.  
  • Firstly, if we are in temporary water restrictions, there is a social cost for Canberrans – brown gardens, reduced access to swimming pools, less playing fields for the kids.
  • Secondly there is a substantial economic cost to the ACT region – businesses that depend on water will all be impacted.
  • Thirdly, Icon Water has an obligation to the community to provide unrestricted access to water, our most precious resource, as much as possible. We have designed our water treatment and supply system, and operate it in a way that meets this requirement.
  • Of course, we will impose temporary water restrictions when we need them to secure supplies, but we need to make sure we don’t apply them too soon. We believe that Canberrans can reduce their water usage without needing temporary water restrictions to force their hand. We can all work together to protect our most precious resource right now. We don’t need to wait.  

How does Icon Water decide if we go into temporary water restrictions? 

  • A key part of the decision is dam levels, but they are not the only factor. We use a range of 35-40 per cent as an indicator that Stage 1 temporary water restrictions may be required. We use a range because there are other factors to be considered.
  • These include:
    • Weather outlook – when is it likely to rain again?
    • Consumption rate – are we using more than expected?
    • Time of year – which relates both to weather and consumption
    • Other factors that may impact water storages

What can I do to save water?

  • The ACT has had Permanent Water Conservation Measures in place since 2010. These are common-sense rules that are actually very similar to Level 1 temporary restrictions in many other regions.
  • We can’t make it rain but we can all make the most of the water we use. We can delay the need for temporary restrictions by simply being a bit more conscious of the way we use water.
  • If we all do a little it can add up to a lot. It’s our daily habits and thoughtful actions, like taking shorter showers, that save water much more than whether there is a scheme of temporary water restrictions in place.