Ballarat swelters through another hot summer, records show

BALLARAT has baked through its driest summer in nearly 30 years.

Just 52.8mm of rain has fallen to date this season according to the Bureau of Meteorology, the city’s worst numbers since just 42.4mm fell in 1984-1985. 

The result represents the fourth driest summer for the city on record.

Last year 150.6mm fell during the same period. Friends of Buninyong Botanic Gardens president Anne King said the long dry was having an impact on the botanic gardens. 

“Gardens everywhere are really suffering,” Mrs King said.

“The top area of the gardens has no irrigation and there are a number of maples struggling because of the season, along with the grassland area which has completely dried off.

“With the lower garden, which is a 19th century, Victorian-style garden, we have been waiting for Ballarat Council to finish the irrigation project it started in 2006. We have ongoing concerns about the area that is not irrigated, particular as there are a number of heritage listed trees and other trees of historical significance.” 

While farmers in the region have seen the effects of the lack of rain, some are better prepared to deal with it than in the past.

Bald Hills dairy farmer Wendy Ross said her family farm was in a better shape than this time last year.

“We certainly want rain but, compared with last year when we ran into trouble, at least there is some reserve fodder,” Mrs Ross said.

“Last season we didn’t have the conserved feed behind us. We have managed our stock numbers but we are noticing it is dry and the trees are stressed.” 

Central Highlands Water customer and community general manager Graham Holt said reservoirs in the Ballarat water supply system were slightly lower compared with last year but still had good levels to meet the summer demand.

“Water usage across the Central Highlands Water region during the recent warmer weather is in line with historical data from previous summers,” Mr Holt said. “We continually monitor water usage and have prediction models in place for these conditions. Our water resources have adequate storage for six to seven years.

The lack of rain was caused by a large high pressure air mass which had dominated Australia during the summer and prevented moist air from reaching inland, Weatherzone meteorologist Ben McBurney explained. 

“Some parts of Victoria, like Warrnambool and Melbourne, have had near average rainfall in December but Ballarat was a bit too far north to be impacted by some of those cold fronts,” Mr McBurney said. “Since mid-January we’ve had consistent regions of high pressure just sitting over the country that did not allow any significant rainfall.” 

“The El Nino-La Nina pattern was neutral which means there were no strong climate drivers.”

gavin.mcgrath@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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