Ballarat woke yesterday morning to a rare and delightful sound; the patter of rain falling on the roofs and parched gardens. Throughout the day there were dark clouds promising much and occasionally they even opened up to that rapid steady downpour which at this time of year can bring so much relief. Ironic that in Ballarat where, gloomy weather and drizzle is a long standing badge of infamy and conversation that this small respite should be so welcome.
But all in all it is a small drop of what is needed. The welcome falls take us to only a quarter of what normally falls in January. The concerning thing in a changing climate is it is the summer months which we have become so reliant on for a good portion of our rainfall. So far this year this has eluded the city and even with the 6mm or so over the last day January looks sadly down on the long term average and looks set (unless a kindly deluge finishes off the month) to be the eleventh straight month below average. If this pattern continues and there is not significant easing of the El Nino, a dry summer sets a horrible starting point to another depleted year. The point then is to re-emphasise just how vital this commodity is in a dry and drying continent. Sweet as the sound of rain is, one swallow does not a summer make.
Rather it is all the more reason why planning and contingencies for extreme scenarios make sense. Rowing legend Eric Waller was nothing short of optimistic about the state of the lake when it comes to meeting the requirements of upcoming regattas. His telling remark that without the recycled top-ups the lake would be half metre down by now shows just how vital this forward planning and implementation has become to the current functioning of the city. Only a few sporting events are at stake, people may argue, but in many ways Lake Wendouree is the symbol of Ballarat and it holds a good part of its spirit. You only have to compare it to Lake Learmonth for a stark and sombre contrast. Beautification works are commendable but a foreshore is not a shore without a lake. So the success of Lake Wendouree is a credit to all those who threw their efforts behind filling it, just as the pipeline is one good reason why this drought has not yet reached screaming headlines. But it should also be a symbol of what can be done in the future, how changing circumstances and climates throw down new challenges but the great city, shunning complacency or hubris, is already prepared to meet them.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.