REGULAR updates on the water level at Ben Chifley Dam have become something of a Bathurst obsession, and why not?
At a time like this when many are doing it tough, watching the water level rise over the past month or so has been a very welcome diversion.
Bathurst Regional Council is getting daily updates on the level (it was 96.9 per cent on Friday morning) and you could almost run a sweep among friends trying to predict the day it will finally reach 100 per cent capacity.
I can't remember a time when as many people have been as keenly interested in what the latest dam figure might be, but perhaps it's little wonder.
Our region has been through droughts before the dry times of 2017, 2018 and 2019, but never before has the dam plunged to such low levels.
In late February this year, with the region on the strictest water restrictions we have seen, the water level at Ben Chifley Dam dropped to about 28 per cent and we were facing a very real water crisis.
Council reports spoke of "Day Zero", the forecast date when there would be no usable water in the dam, and the region's irrigators, who had already dramatically cut back on the water use and significantly reduced their crop, genuinely feared it might get as low as the 22 per cent "cease to pump" level for the first time.
How quickly things have changed.
First we had some showers across the region that at least halted the falls in the dam's level and then, slowly, we started to see some rises.
For a couple of months it was a case of increases of about one per cent a week before some good winter falls saw he dam hit the 40 per cent mark in July.
That was a significant milestone, but it was just the start. In just a few weeks the dam hit 50 per cent for the first time in around 18 months and then heavy rain and snow in mid-August saw water flooding into the dam from the catchment area.
In just a week it climbed from 56 per cent to 85 per cent and beyond, and has kept going up since.
We could not have imagined even six months ago that our region could be in this position.
It's easily the best news story we'll tell this year.