SYDNEY • Australia's biggest city, Sydney, is running down its water supply at its fastest rate on record, with dams expected to fall below half of their maximum capacity because of the worst drought the country has seen, the government said yesterday.
Warragamba Dam, the city's main water supply, was sitting at 51.4 per cent capacity, down 17.8 per cent in a year and little more than half its level just two years earlier.
The amount of water flowing into the dam was just 10 per cent of what it was a year ago, according to the New South Wales state regulator WaterNSW.
The total water level in Sydney's 11 dams was 50.1 per cent, forcing the authorities to introduce water restrictions in recent months.
"We have never seen this kind of inflows," said New South Wales Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey.
"Catchments that have been historically reliable... are now facing a critical shortage of water."
At the current rate of decline, discounting rainfall, Sydney dams would have enough water reserves only for another two years, according to figures provided by WaterNSW.
Ms Pavey said "major (inland) cities... run the risk of running out of fresh water in the next 12 months".
"That is the stark reality for our regional communities," she added.
Sydney has in recent months resorted to water-saving methods, including enforced water restrictions, which limit the amount of water people are allowed to use outdoors.
In March, Sydney's desalination plant started working at full capacity to process sea water, with the aim of lifting the city's water reserves to 70 per cent.
The state government this week said it plans to expand the plant.
In April, researcher Kantar Public surveyed 1,000 Sydney residents and found that despite the dry conditions and declining water supply, 47 per cent of people did not realise there was a drought.