NSW dam levels are reaching 100 per cent capacity in many regions

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A third La Nina in a row settling down Australia’s east coast will almost certainly bring more rain to dams that are already full to the brim.

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

100 percent not what it seems

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

State Emergency Service (SES) community capacity officer Jake Hoppe said dam levels were measured slightly differently and 100 per cent full did not mean the dam was overflowing.

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

“Dams will strategically release water ahead of a rain event if it is expected.”

The fine line of water releases

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

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

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

Water discharges mean towns like Warren and surrounding farms are in prolonged major flooding.

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

“Under normal circumstances you can release that water into the river when the tributaries start to recede, but what we have right now are very high tributaries,” he said.

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