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Australia Hobart could face water restrictions as city's demand spikes, irrigators asked to slash usage

05:55  27 november  2019
05:55  27 november  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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Hobart could soon face water restrictions and farmers are being asked to slash their water usage in half as the state's south supply buckles under demand.

TasWater CEO Mike Brewster said demand in the city was about 10 megalitres a day more than this time last year.

He said water levels in the Ridgeway Dam, which collects water from kunanyi/Mount Wellington, had also had to be lowered for safety reasons and inflows to the city's alternative supply at Lake Fenton was low.

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"At the moment we're struggling to keep up with supply so right at this minute it's a fine balancing act," Mr Brewster said.

He said the reason for the increased demand was not exactly clear.

"Maybe it's tourists coming in ... maybe it's drier than before and therefore there's been more watering of gardens," Mr Brewster said.

"It's sometimes very difficult to determine the root cause."

Tasmania's east coast has been experiencing some of its driest conditions on record.

Mr Brewster said it was possible Hobart could face water restrictions and that TasWater was consulting with the Government and had yet to make a decision.

"Right now the biggest focus we've got is on modelling scenarios and ensuring we're meeting our customers' expectations in terms of drinking water and giving whatever excess we can to the irrigators," he said.

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Mr Brewster said water also needed to be kept in reserve for fighting bushfires.

"It's important we act prudently and ensure there's enough capacity in our key storages, particularly as we approach high fire danger days," he said.

"We've got to be consistently keeping up levels in the network because you never quite know when you do get a bushfire where it's going to hit," Mr Brewster said.

Farmers asked to conserve water

TasWater doesn't know what's caused the spike in demand. (Unsplash) © Provided by ABC News TasWater doesn't know what's caused the spike in demand. (Unsplash) Tasmanian Irrigation has asked farmers under specific schemes in the south-east, including those in Richmond, Cambridge and Sorell, to halve their usage in an effort to conserve water.

Chief Executive Andrew Kneebone said demand from irrigators had been outstripping supply by 6 megalitres of water a day.

"We need to protect the levels of water in our balancing storages and stabilise them while we recover," he said.

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An outdoor water - use restriction is a ban or other lesser restrictions put into effect that restricts the outdoor use of water supplies. Often called a watering ban or hosepipe ban, it can affect: irrigation of lawns. car washing. recreational uses such as filling swimming pools and using water slides. planting

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Mr Kneebone said the Rekuna and Daisy Banks dams, near Campania and Richmond respectively, were less than half full, "significantly down" on previous years.

TasWater is trying to minimise the impact on farmers.

"We understand that irrigators in the area have high-value crops, including grapes and green leaf crops, that are highly dependent on irrigation water so we are doing all that we can to manage supply," he said.

Grower warns crops, jobs in balance

Veteran vegetable grower Colin Houston said the water restrictions were the worst news he had had in 20 years.

He recently came out of retirement to grow vegetables with his son in Forcett — located in the south-east irrigation scheme catchment.

"The whole of the south-east irrigation scheme is now in jeopardy," he said.

"If the restrictions stay we'll have to reduce our crops and reduce our staff, so we have to work as a team, TasWater, TasIrrigation and farmers to utilise the water the best we can.

"We have obviously got to be okay with the 50 per cent cut until we get our storages up.

"Short term we need that water to keep our employment and keep our markets going."

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