NSW dam levels reach 100 per cent capacity in many regions

A third consecutive La Nina settling in to the east coast of Australia will almost certainly bring more rain to 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 they have not been this full since the 1990s.

100 per cent not what it seems

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

State Emergency Service (SES) community capability officer Jake Hoppe said dam levels were measured a little differently, and 100 per cent full did not mean overtopping.

“100 per cent just means that’s the optimal level and anything above that is extra water that possibly could be released,” he said.

“Dams will strategically release water prior to a rain event if it’s anticipated.”

The fine line of water releases

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

Burrendong Dam from the air at 136.5 per cent capacity.(Supplied: Matthew Hansen)

Burrendong Dam in the state’s west is at 130 per cent capacity.

Water releases mean towns such as Warren and surrounding farms are in prolonged major flood.

Water NSW spokesperson Tony Weber said releasing water from full dams into saturated catchments was a balancing act.

“In normal circumstances you can release that water into the river once the tributaries start to recede but what we have right now is very high tributary flows,” he said.