The rise and fall of lake levels

Where's the jetty? The lake level is high but normal for this time of year.

After the deluge of rain and heavy dump of snow over recent days, the lake levels rose to a height of 278.75cm in Lake Wānaka and 341.072 in Lake Hāwea. 

The famous 1999’s historic flood level was 281.3 metres, which impacted approximately 12 properties and businesses at its peak. This is now referred to this as the potential flood zone. “What is deemed a ‘high’ lake level is 279.4m, and where we might reach the level of possible flooding is 280.0 m,” said a spokesperson for Queenstown Lakes District Council.

“It’s good to note that when the lake reaches the ‘possible flooding’ level this applies to low lying reserve. As of 8am this morning (November 19) the lake was sitting at 278.6m. At this stage ORC is not forecasting any issues although the lakes are high. This is standard for this time of year with spring rains and snow melt. As always, we continue to carefully monitor the situation and ORC is currently modelling any forecast rain events. ORC, in conjunction with QLDC, undertakes a walkabout at this time of year in the ‘flood zone’ to remind people of the need to dust off flood plans, empty grease traps and various other important steps to take in the event of possible flooding,” they continued. 

Council also holds an e-txt alert for the zone and every attempt is made to give ample warning in the event of possible high lake levels. “Again, every encouragement is made for people to self-monitor and many locals know to keep an eye on the lake itself.”

Heading into summer, with gardens and lawns to irrigate constantly, council cautions against water usage apathy. “The lake level has no correlation with water supplies at all. Water that comes from the tap is treated to be potable and reticulated so we are always limited by our reservoir capacity. If the summer is hot and dry then pressure comes on the supply due to irrigation. Shortages may still occur.”

For watersports enthusiasts, the heavy rain comes with extra cautionary warning on rivers which can run higher and faster than usual. 


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