Kimberley wet season preparation 2011 – 2012
Released 02 Dec 2011
The Department of Water has been busy preparing its river and rainfall measurement equipment for this season's wet following record breaking events in the region last wet that put their gear to the test.
As the Bureau of Meteorology toured the north west region of WA to announce the likelihood of another above average wet season, the department's Kimberley hydrographers were just catching up on the damage caused by the huge wet season of 2010-2011.
The department has river level gauging stations and rainfall meters positioned across the Kimberley that provide valuable water information used by state and federal governments and industry.
Although this equipment is designed to survive the extreme conditions of raging rivers, the past year exceeded all expectations with significant damage sustained at seven sites.
"One gauging station on the Wilson River near Warmun was completely washed away," the department's senior natural resource management officer Duncan Palmer said.
Most of the gauging stations in the Kimberley have been in operation for over 45 years, and rainfall and river levels records were broken at four sites in the Ord catchment last wet.
This included 481mm rainfall in 24 hours in the Wilson River catchment, and river levels over 19m high on the Ord River.
The results of the big wet season were felt most by the residents of Warmun community, as their homes were washed away, and the whole community was evacuated and relocated to Kununurra for the following three months.
Another lasting impact has been the filling of Lake Argyle to twice its normal storage capacity.
"As the lake can only drain out via a relatively small overflow, it has continued to overflow since the rainfall in March," Duncan said.
Now that most the Kimberley gauging stations have been repaired and are again fully operational, the team are now planning where to put their flow gauging efforts.
This has involved transporting boats and flow measuring equipment to remote rivers in readiness for the wet season.
"Once the floods arrive, the team will be able to fly to the locations and undertake river flow measurements, an important component of water resource management that the department undertakes," Duncan said.
"River flow measurement provides valuable information that is utilised by a large range of stakeholders.
"It is used to determine the size and reliability of the water resources to inform decision making in the allocation of water to industry, community and the environment.
"It is also used by engineers when designing roads, bridges, rail lines and townships.
"The Bureau of Meteorology use the information to understand long term climate change, and importantly, to provide flood advice to FESA and other emergency organisations."
Contact: Peter Collins
Phone: (08) 6364 6848 / 0434 603 441