Three million litres released every day at Leslie Dam
MILLIONS of litres of water gushed from Leslie Dam this weekend, marking the first irrigation release in more than two years.
Drought pushed the dam below 15,000ML in September 2017, halting the supply to over 80 farms stretching from Warwick to Cecil Plains.
What little water remained was reserved for residential use on the Southern Downs, forcing farmers to forsake everything from lucerne to cotton crops.
Recent rain, however, changed everything.
Leslie Dam sits at 18 per cent capacity at time of print, which means Leslie Dam owners, SunWater, are within their rights to resume limited operation.
General manager John Kelly said both SunWater and its customers were relieved to offer water for agricultural purposes again.
"Our rules for sharing water determined we could only supply 20 per cent of the irrigators' allocation, based on the volume of water above that 15,000ML reserve," he said.
"We'll be releasing about 330ML of water per day until we reach that cut off point."
SunWater calculated the amount of released water after receiving customer orders.
Irrigators request a portion of their allocation for use within a specific time frame, SunWater releases the total order downstream, and the farmers pump the water onto their property.
While the spectacular sight of water streaming down the Condamine River was a welcome relief for some, it sparked outcry among others.
Residents took to social media to question the release, demanding to know the reason "behind this stupid decision" when the "Condamine could stop flowing tomorrow".
Southern Downs Regional Council water manager Seren McKenzie said there was no need for residents to see the release as a threat to town water security.
"That gives us about three years of water supply in Leslie Dam," she said.
"We have kept our restrictions at 100L per person because we're still carting to Stanthorpe and we've decided to take a region-wide approach.
"It's not just based on dam levels."
It may be the optimal time for river releases, according to Mr Kelly.
"Given there's been a recent run in the river it's more efficient to release that water now," he said.
"If the water is released on a river that's still flowing it minimises the losses in transmission and makes delivery more efficient."