For the past two and a half years, Armidale LGA has been enjoying what is known as 'permanent conservation', a widely used term across Australia for water utilities when not in active restrictions.
While residents have been encouraged to practice sensible water conservation and work towards an average per person daily usage of 200 litres per day, there have been no active official council restrictions on water use.
Armidale moved out water restrictions and into permanent conservation in March 2021 after significant rainfall filled the region's dams.
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According to the council website's 'Water Usage and Supply' page, sourced from Water NSW, the Armidale region's total water storage is currently at 100.4 per cent capacity with Malpas Dam, Guyra Dam and Puddledock Dam all at 100 per cent capacity.
The region had been experiencing a prolonged and severe drought period that saw water levels at Malpas Dam fall below 60 per cent in 2019 and a Drought Management plan for Level 1 water restrictions was activated by then-mayor Simon Murray.
It was the first time Armidale had been put on water restrictions since the 1970s and served as a stark reminder that the issue of water conservation could not be taken for granted.
Fast forward three years and after heavy rain and record floods across eastern states, La Nina is over but authorities are warning drought conditions appear to be taking shape.
Long-range forecasts by the Bureau of Meteorology in March of 2023 revealed a 50 per cent chance of a warmer, drier weather pattern occurring this year and those forecasts appear to be accurate.
According to BOM climate data, Rainfall for 2023 has so far been below average and monthly temperatures have been above average for every month except April and May.
BOM Long-range forecasts issued on August 10 indicate that for the September to November period, rainfall is likely to very likely to be below the median for much of the eastern half of Australia, and there is a greater than 80 per cent chance maximum temperatures for almost all of the country will be above the median.
The drought management plan, implemented by Armidale Regional Council in 2021, included guidelines surrounding when water restrictions would be triggered and when certain actions needed to be taken to try and ensure there is no repeat of the 2019 season when emergency restrictions had to be introduced.
The trigger system is designed to eliminate any uncertainty when it comes to implementing restrictions and deciding when to relax or tighten rules around water use.
Level 1 water restrictions, which necessitate residents to keep to less than 180 litres per person are not triggered until the total storage levels fall below 80 per cent and an adverse three-month climate outlook is predicted by the Bureau of Meteorology.
Malpas Dam has a storage capacity of 13,000 million litres with expansion capabilities to 26,000 million litres.
Armidale Regional Council also purchased Oaky Dam last year for $4.3 million as a backup water supply and to boost the city's overall long-term water security.
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