Was the Brisbane flood avoidable?

Spillway at Wivenhoe

The Australian publishes an article analysing the events surrounding the releases from the Wivenhoe Dam (previously reported here at ACM) and its possible effect on the Brisbane flood. The inquiry will certainly have its work cut out::

For reasons that are now highly controversial, in the early hours of Thursday, January 13, Australia’s third-largest city was devastated by a major flood in the Brisbane River. Thousands of homes and businesses were severely damaged; priceless possessions including artefacts and photographs of incalculable sentimental value were destroyed; and a multi-billion-dollar bill was inflicted on the River City. Large swaths of a spectacular city were submerged as the sun shone.

At first it was put down to the wrath of Mother Nature. The video footage of vehicles and people being swept down large streets in Toowoomba (700m above sea level on the Great Dividing Range) by a raging torrent of dirty-brown floodwater after a freak downpour on January 10 was powerful. There were remarkable images of families safe on the roofs of their houses surrounded by floodwater in the Lockyer Valley, below Toowoomba and west of Brisbane (and outside the Wivenhoe catchment).

But, as engineers and hydrologists model increasing amounts of data from the Bureau of Meteorology and SEQWater on the performance of the dam – its inflows from the vast catchment, its releases during crucial periods, the changes in river heights and flow rates, and the manual that the operators are instructed to follow – a very different picture emerges.

The picture being painted before the start of a commission of inquiry, headed by Supreme Court judge Cate Holmes, is that the Brisbane River flood was largely the product of water released from the dam.

These calculations, yet to be tested by SEQWater, show that the urgent release from the dam of huge volumes at unprecedented rates of flow of up to 7500 cubic metres per second, when the operators were gravely concerned late on January 11 that the dam’s rising levels could trigger a collapse of the system, produced most of the flood in the Brisbane River. (source)


  1. The Loaded Dog says:

    How “independent” is Supreme Court judge Cate Holmes?

    Is there a chance this inquiry could be compromised or politicised?

    “On 18 January 2011, it was announced that Justice Holmes would be appointed to head an inquiry into the 2011 Queensland floods[1]. The following day the Bar Association of Queensland criticised the appointment, making the following comments:

    Since 1987 the Queensland judiciary has adhered to a convention that a serving judge ought not accept appointment to head a commission of inquiry… It is clear that the present inquiry involves real potential for political controversy as to administrative conduct of successive state and local government administrations since (the last major flood in) 1974…It must be recognised that commissions of inquiry, by their nature, will find themselves examining issues of a character not contemplated upon commencement. The issues for inquiry may become far more politically charged than first imagined.[2]

    However, the Chief Justice of Queensland, Paul de Jersey defended the appointment, arguing that it was appropriate because of the apparent absence of any suggestion of political or institutional corruption[3].”


    Oh, it’s ok because they tell us there is no “suggestion of political or institutional corruption”


    “Floodgate” inquiry anyone?

  2. The Loaded Dog says:

    Further to my last from Andrew Bolt’s blog yesterday:-

    Queensland Water Commission’s 2010 South East Queensland Water Strategy states:-

    “Climate change may have a significant impact on the supply from our dams. The majority of climate modelling done to date indicates that SEQ is likely to become hotter and drier, with reduced inflows to dams and increased demand for water.”


    Andrew asks:-

    “Was Wivenhoe dam left too full to protect Brisbane because its operators trusted the predictions of global warmists that rains would decline?”

    Good question. Lets have an “independent” inquiry into this shalll we?

  3. This is consistent with what the Victorian Department of Sustainability and the Environment is saying:

    “Significant challenges facing the Department in the medium term:

    The ongoing impact of climate change, particularly longer, more intense drought periods combined with lower average rainfall and increased temperatures, remains the most significant challenge facing the department in the medium term.

    The severity and longevity of the current drought significantly increases the risk of severe fire danger and large bushfire outbreaks. In response to last year’s devastating February bushfires, the government is implementing a range of bushfire relief measures and the recovery of bushfire affected areas remains a major priority of the department as well as across government.

    Water scarcity is another key challenge for the department. The Department is focused on delivering policies and projects to provide water security for Victoria’s growing population and economy.”

    Click to access BP3Ch3DSE.pdf

    This is what they are spening the taxpayers’ dollar on.

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