THE water level at Bathurst’s main water catchment has fallen to the lowest level in more than a decade as the region’s hot, dry autumn rolls on.
Ben Chifley Dam at The Lagoon was sitting at 59.6 per cent capacity when Bathurst Regional Council took its weekly reading on Tuesday.
It is the first time the dam has fallen below 60 per cent since mid-2007 but is still well above the 40 per cent level that would trigger water restrictions across the region.
And in a double blow for dam users, a red level blue-green algae alert has been put in place after sampling at parts of the dam revealed high quantities of the algae.
Council’s waste and water manager Russell Deans said the dam remained open for recreational users but they had been warned to take care.
“The dam can still be used for recreational purposes but users should avoid contact with algae,” Mr Deans said.
“The same applies for use by livestock - that is, contact should be avoided.
“Council’s website has a detailed fact sheet on blue-green algae for further information.”
Chifley Dam was sitting at around 90 per cent at the start of the year but has fallen consistently since then.
While the Bathurst region has had a number of isolated heavy downpours, they have largely missed the dam’s 960 square kilometre catchment that extends to the top of the Great Dividing Range.
Mr Deans said council has closed the secondary boat ramp in response to the falling water level but the dam’s main boat ramp is open.
He said there had been no impact on the Bathurst water supply.
While water restrictions will only be introduced if the dam level drops to 40 per cent, Mr Deans said council urged residents to be waterwise.
He said there were six levels of restrictions council could impose.
“These restriction actions are the same in Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo if the same restriction level is in place,” Mr Deans said.
“For example on Level 1 all communities (if restrictions were imposed) are not permitted to wash down hard surfaces and are restricted to the timing of garden and lawn watering.
“Level 1 is implemented when the dam reaches 40 per cent. The restrictions are outlined in council’s Drought Management Plan, October 2014.”
The falling water level has left 17,000 megalitres in storage at Chifley Dam while Bathurst residents are using around 22 megalitres of filtered water a day.
Burrendong Dam is also falling, sitting at 59.2 per cent.