I noticed this article reporting on a BoM – CSIRO initiative to forecast river flows a few months in advance. I just hope they use better models than they employ for the hopeless BoM rainfall and temperature Outlooks.
What caught my eye was the gushing praise from ACTEW our Canberra water utility – whose business model seems to be to charge households increasingly rapacious water bills, and pay increasing money to Govt, while keeping water restrictions permanent as dams overflow and during the dryer times tipping large amounts of water away as “environmental flows”.
The catch for ACTEW is that their praise is exposed as unfounded puff because the BoM – CSIRO “Seasonal Streamflow Forecasts” web pages publish a check on the results of their forecasts in the form of a Table “Summary of skill scores”. Unfortunately for ACTEW forecasts for the two catchments relevant to ACT water supply, Cotter and Queanbeyan both rate pretty poorly. ACTEW comments at the end.
Forecast service predicts river, dam levels
Updated Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:28pm AEDT
Australian Government scientists have developed a new tool to predict how much water might flow into rivers and catchments up to three months in advance.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and the CSIRO have launched the Seasonal Streamflow Forecast Service online, which they say will provide water managers, farmers and the public with information on likely water flows into major rivers and dams.
The forecasts have been developed for 13 river sites and eight storages in the south-east Murray-Darling Basin, including the Murrumbidgee and upper Murray catchments.
It will be expanded to include other locations across Australia over the next one to two years.
BOM deputy director Dr Rob Vertessy says it is cutting edge science.
“It’s the first operational seasonal streamflow forecasting in the world, that we’re aware of, that’s accessible to the open public,” he said.
He says the forecasts will assist decision-making on water allocation, environmental flow management and storage operations.
“Water managers and users now have access to skilful, reliable and robust forecasts of seasonal streamflows,” he said.
Dr Vertessy says this year’s extreme climate variability and the recent drought-breaking floods have highlighted the need for sophisticated tools to predict stream flow.
“Although there is a lot of water in some areas of Australia at the moment, water availability will continue to vary in the future as demand continues to grow and climate inevitably varies,” he said.
“This poses major challenges for water resource management.”
Dr Vertessy says he is pleased with the accuracy of the predictions.
“It’s really tough to predict the future but basically we do three things – we look at climate models and ask them what is the rainfall prognosis for the three months ahead. We look at the recent historical rainfall over the last month or two and then we look at the current wetness conditions of the catchments,” he said.
Canberra’s water supplier ACTEW has been using the tool.
Managing director Mark Sullivan says it allows for better water security planning.
“We have understood a whole lot more about the development of flows in recent months than we ever would have without the tool,” he said.
“We have been guided and we’ve understood what’s happening in our catchments. It’s helped in decisions about water restrictions and it’s already been proved invaluable.”