Victoria's water storage at about 43 per cent

Victoria's water storage at about 43 per cent

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This map shows the April-to-date root-zone soil moisture for Victoria and southern NSW.

This map shows the April-to-date root-zone soil moisture for Victoria and southern NSW.

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The latest observations from the Bureau of Meteorology.

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Most of us know that 2018, and the beginning of 2019 has delivered Victoria below average rainfall. And you've probably heard about the increased chance of El Nino in 2019 curbing hopes for significant rainfall recovery.

But did you know the Bureau of Meteorology provides more water information to rural Victorians than just rainfall forecasts and observations?

Rainfall over the Murray-Darling Basin in the past two years has been the lowest we've seen in about 100 years. While rainfall hasn't been as dire further south in Victoria, conditions in both regions were exacerbated by record high temperatures.

The dry conditions follow a longer period of below average rainfall from April 2012 to April 2016 affecting western Victoria; combined with the dry past two years, they create the state's most significant long-term rainfall deficits. However, Victoria's most significant rainfall deficits for the shorter, latest 24-month period, are in Gippsland, where there is a large area of lowest rainfall on record across west and south Gippsland.

It's not surprising then that monthly streamflows have been low across most of Victoria and NSW's Riverina Murray so far in 2019.

Rainfall over the east of the state in the second half of March means the root zone (zero to one metre depth) soil moisture in those areas is now average to above average. However, in the southwest, root zone soil moisture is average to below average, and very much below average (driest 10 per cent of historic records) for much of the centre and northwest.

Low streamflows are likely to continue from April to June at most forecast sites in Victoria and across the border in the Riverina Murray.

Water storage for Victoria is around 43.1 per cent full, approaching early 2016 levels - the lowest storage levels in the past three years. NSW storages are even lower, at around 24.6 per cent full, the lowest accessible volume of water for the past six years by a large margin.

All of these factors have contributed to a tightening water supply for agriculture.

In response to lower availability, the volume weighted average allocation price has risen quickly, and almost continuously, since the start of 2018.

The volume weighted average price rose above $400/ML at the start of 2019, peaking at around $440/ML in February - prices not seen in the past 10 years.

For more water information, visit www.bom.gov.au/water

- BOM climatologist Jonathan Pollock

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