Thursday, December 20, 2007

Australia's Driest City Comes Back From The Brink

Great news from Goulburn, as the rains fill the city's vastly depleted dam and the locals are freed from the harshest water restrictions faced by any city dwellers in Australia.

The dam was down to 14% capacity earlier in the year, but the rains began to fall in June and water restrictions started to be eased back in July. The rains have kept falling and now the Level Five Restrictions have been wound back to Level Three.

Goulburn's water restrictions became infamous when we learned that many showered surrounded by buckets to collect every splash, so they could try and keep their gardens and lawns alive.

But the ultra-tight water restrictions have had an interesting effect on Goulburnians. Even though they don't have to conserve every spare drop of water like they once did, the years of restrictions have ingrained a conservatism when it comes to water that will delay the day, if the regular rains fade away again, when they have to go back to Level Five once more.

Goulburnians are using less water than they did before the drought hit their city, and the water they do use, they are using more effectively :

For three years, Goulburn in southern NSW endured the tightest water restrictions in the country. But as rains continue to bring relief to swathes of eastern Australia, the town's dams are more than half full, kids are playing on the ovals again and the deputy mayor even has his vegetable garden growing again.

Under Level 5 restrictions, residents were allowed only 150litres a person a day, but they were so water conscious many cut their use to closer to 100 litres a person a day.

Under Level 3 restrictions, residents are allowed to water for an hour a day by hose, and there is no limit on watering cans.

Sally Nelson, from Goulburn's Gehl Garden Centre, said the business had had a good spring. Townspeople had stopped buying plants during the severe water restrictions, she said, but after the June rain they began to garden again, opting first for vegetable and annual flower seedlings.

Playing fields that were rock hard and closed at the height of the drought are now green and in use again. (The mayor) Mr Sullivan pointed out the local racecourse and soccer fields were being watered with recycled water, and there were plans to increase recycled water use on all sports fields.

Goulburn's water supplies are now at 60%. There were predictions earlier this year they would run out of water completely by May, 2008.

By the time the next drought arrives, if it actually does, Goulburn should have a new pipeline in place, but even then they won't use as much water as they did before the drought began in 2004.

These are lessons in water conservation that are, and have been learned, in towns and cities all over Australia in the past few years.

For the world's driest country, these are lessons we probably should have learned a long time ago.

July 2007 : The Skies Finally Open Over Australia's 'City Of Drought'