NSW dam levels reach 100 percent capacity in many regions

A third consecutive La Nina settling on Australia’s east coast will almost certainly bring more rain to the dams already filled to the brim.

More than half of regional NSW’s state-owned dams are at or above capacity, and authorities say they haven’t been this full since the 1990s.

100 percent not what it seems

Reaching capacity is not necessarily a cause for panic for flood-prone communities.

State Emergency Service (SES) community official Jake Hoppe said dam levels were measured a little differently and 100 percent full didn’t mean overtopping.

“100 percent just means this is the optimal level, and anything above that is extra water that might be released,” he said.

“Dams will strategically release water prior to a rainstorm if it is expected.”

The fine line of water is released

But with heavy rainfall again, there are concerns about how such full dams can cope.

A photo of a dam taken from an airplane
Burrendong Dam from the air with a capacity of 136.5 percent.(Delivered: Matthew Hansen)

Burrendong Dam in the west of the state has a capacity of 130 percent.

Due to the release of water, towns like Warren and the surrounding farms have suffered long-term major flooding.

Water NSW spokesman Tony Weber said releasing water from full dams in saturated watersheds was a balancing act.

“Under normal circumstances, you can discharge that water into the river once the tributaries start to retreat, but what we have now are very high tributaries,” he said.

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