Lake Daylesford

How’s this rain we’ve been having! We haven’t had a winter like this for a very long time but don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

I’ve been doing some work at Melbourne Water so I’ve become a bit obsessed with water storage levels. I have to say I was pretty surprised when I discovered Melbourne’s reserves are currently at 63.53% and central highlands is at 59.10% at the time of writing this! We always seem to have abundant levels of water, this area being so lush and green. Even in the harshest dry times it still seems not as dry as other places – proof again that perception doesn’t always equal reality.

You’d expect that the water reserves would be much higher with the rainfall we’ve received. Since investigating further, I’ve learnt that the ground acts like a sponge and will soak up water before it starts filling the reservoirs. You can test this theory with a dishwashing sponge…that’s how it was explained to me in Melbourne Water’s office kitchen. When you pour water onto a sponge it will absorb a certain amount before it starts spilling out. We’ve had little rainfall over an extended period of time and as a result the ground has become incredibly dry so it has to get to a certain moisture retention level before the reservoirs will start filling.

We also have the other challenge of our population growing at the weekends with our healthy tourist industry so the water that is captured in our reservoirs is then used as demand grows.

All of this got me thinking about the food we consume and how much water is required to produce certain things. I discovered a great site available through National Geographic that lists a range of products and the amount of water required to grow or make them. I have to say again I was blown away with this revelation. Here are some popular consumables.

Water

Home grown produce

  • Beef (0.5 kilo) – 6,810 litres
  • Chicken (0.5 kilo) – 1,773 litres
  • Lamb (0.5 kilo) – 2,769 litres
  • Egg (one) – 200 litres
  • Apple (one) – 70 litres
  • Orange (one) – 50 litres
  • Wheat (0.5 kilo) – 500 litres
  • Bread (one slice) – 40 litres
  • Cheese (0.5 kilo) – 2,273 litres
  • Milk (3.8 litres) – 3,331 litres
  • Coffee (3.8 litres) – 3,331 litres
  • Tea (3.8 litres) – 484 litres
  • Beer (3.8 litres) – 2,608 litres
  • Wine (3.8 litres) – 3,816 litres
  • Chocolate (0.5 kilo) – 12,000 litres

If you were trying to give up chocolate, there is another good reason!

All of this puts the persistence of this rain into perspective. It’s really important to not take water for granted no matter how much is falling out of the sky at the moment.

Water

Precious water – our dam is now full again after the last rain

Recently I visited Sugarloaf Water Reservoir near the Christmas Hills east of Melbourne. It is one of the 5 catchments that supply Melbourne with water. When full, it holds 96,253 mega litres of water. Big numbers like that don’t really mean anything to me but it was put into context when it was explained that if this catchment wasn’t continually topped up by from the Yarra River and other sources and it was the only reservoir used to supply the population of Melbourne, it would last only 3 months before it ran out.

So our Wombat Reservoir might appear to be overflowing at the moment but it’s really important that we continue to conserve this precious resource, which we can do by:

  • Following water restrictions
  • Install a water tank
  • Buy water efficient appliances for the home
  • Install a water efficient shower head
  • Install a grey water system
  • Install a dual flush toilet
  • Plant a drought tolerant garden and use mulch to hold moisture in the soil
Sustainable Plants

Drought tolerant plants like Echium thrive on whatever the sky sends down

We can also make a difference by changing habits like:

  • Taking shorter showers (message to our teenage population)
  • Turn the tap off whilst brushing your teeth
  • Use a plug to fill the sink when washing vegetables or dishes by hand
  • Making sure the dishwashing and washing machines have full loads before washing

The rain will stop soon so lets hold onto the water we’ve been granted because we don’t know when it will be back again.