In drier parts of Victoria there has been no significant run-off for the past two years.
DEDJTR land management extension officer Heather Field said water levels in many dams were much lower than normal for this time of the year and some were already dry.
‘‘Farm water storages need to be designed to cope with several years of little or no run-off and landholders should now be assessing their water needs for this summer and autumn,’’ Ms Field said.
She said calculating the total water available and the total water required by stock would help plan how many stock could be carried through the dry period.
‘‘Landholders need to make decisions early by assessing water levels in their dams and putting plans in place to ensure that stock can be maintained in a fit and healthy condition.’’
Ms Field said there were a number of factors that influenced how much water animals consumed, including age and condition, seasonal conditions, type of terrain, dry versus green pasture, saltiness of water and access to shade.
‘‘If water availability is at a critical level, look for ways to reduce water losses and become more efficient.
‘‘Reticulating water around your property not only puts you more in control but can increase your storage capacity to make use of rainfall events and minimise evaporation.
‘‘The use of troughs will expand your grazing options, improve water quality and maintain dam structure by excluding stock from waterways.’’
Ms Field said landholders could also minimise evaporation by pumping water from small shallow dams to larger deeper dams or into tanks.
‘‘A 3m deep dam can lose half its total volume to evaporation each year.
‘‘Water quality can be maintained by fencing out dams and reticulating water to troughs in adjoining paddocks. Better quality water means your livestock will be healthier and require less water.
‘‘Other ideas include fencing off dams to prevent stock access which can cause pugging, vegetation removal and water contamination, fixing leaking pipes and troughs and making the most of your roof area by capturing water in tanks.
‘‘A 20m by 10m shed can harvest 133000litres if 700mm of rain falls in a year.’’
Ms Field also suggested landholders could reduce current water use by providing shade for stock, de-stocking and using stock containment areas.
‘‘Water quality should be monitored, particularly if levels stay low or there is potential for pollutants such as manure and soil to enter water sources,’’ she said.
‘‘Remember dry conditions can lead to water quality issues such as high levels of salt.’’
Ms Field said monitoring should be done regularly and more frequently in summer or in periods of prolonged moisture stress.