This brochure describes the flood
warning system operated by the Australian Government, Bureau of
Meteorology for the Condamine River catchment to Cotswold. It includes
reference information which will be useful for understanding Flood
Warnings and River Height Bulletins issued by the Bureau's Flood
Warning Centre during periods of high rainfall and flooding.
The Flood Risk
The Condamine - Balonne River system is one of the tributaries of the Murray - Darling River system and is one of the most important river systems in Queensland in terms of agriculture. The headwaters of the Condamine River rise in the Border Ranges near Killarney and flow approximately 1200 kilometres through Queensland before entering New South Wales.
The annual rainfall distribution ranges from over 1000 mm in the ranges near Killarney to only 400 mm over the lower parts of the catchment near Hebel.
Large scale flooding within the main towns such as Warwick, Dalby and Chinchilla is not a regular occurrence and does not overshadow the widespread effects of flooding on individual homes and properties and the loss and damages suffered in rural areas. Damage to fencing, pumping equipment, machinery and loss of stock through drowning result in significant losses during major floods.
Major floods do not necessarily develop in the headwater areas of the catchment but can result from heavy rainfall in any of the large tributaries which enter the main Condamine River. Under these circumstances flood forecast lead times may be short.
Records of large floods along the Condamine extend back as far as 1887 at Warwick with extensive records at several other locations on the mainstream. Major floods occur regularly, on average every 2 years. The worst flooding occured in 1942, 1950, 1956, 1975, 1976, 1983 (twice), 1988, 1996 and two very large floods two weeks apart at the end of 2010 and start of 2011.
Major floods generally only occur in the first half of the year although records indicate that they may also occur in late spring.
The Southern and Western Downs Regional Councils, in conjunction with the Bureau of Meteorology operate a flood warning system for the Condamine River catchment. The ALERT network consists of automatic rainfall and river height stations which regularly forward data via radio telemetry to base stations located at the Council offices in Warwick, Stanthorpe and Dalby and the Bureau's Flood Warning Centre in Brisbane. The system provides early warning of heavy rainfall and river rises in the catchment and enables more accurate and timely flood warning and forecasts. The balance of the network consists of volunteer rainfall and river height observers who forward observations by telephone when the initial flood height has been exceeded at their station. The Department of Natural Resources and Mines also operates a number of automatic telemetry stations throughout the catchment which provide data during floods.
The Bureau's Flood Warning Centre issues Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins for the Condamine River catchment to Cotswold during flood events. Quantitative forecasts are issued whenever river heights are expected to reach minor flood levels at Warwick, Pratten, Tummaville, Cecil Plains, Ranges Bridge, Chinchilla Weir, and Condamine Town on the main river and Chinchilla on Charley's Creek.
The Southern Downs Regional Council, Western Downs Regional Council and the Toowoomba Regional Council are able to provide further details of flooding in your area.
Flood Warnings and Bulletins
The Bureau of Meteorology issues Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins for the Condamine River to Cotswold regularly during floods. They are sent to radio stations for broadcast, and to local Councils, emergency services and a large number of other agencies involved in managing flood response activities.
Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins are available via:
Internet/World Wide Web
Interpreting Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins
Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins contain observed river heights for a selection of the river height monitoring locations. The time at which the river reading has been taken is given together with its tendency (e.g. rising, falling, steady or at its peak). The Flood Warnings may also contain predictions in the form of minor, moderate or major flooding for a period in the future. River Height Bulletins also give the height above or below the road bridge or causeway for each river station located near a road crossing.
One of the simplest ways of understanding what the actual or predicted river height means is to compare the height given in the Warning or Bulletin with the height of previous floods at that location.
The table below summarises the flood history of the Condamine River catchment to Cotswold - it contains the flood gauge heights of the more significant recent floods.
Historical flood heights for all river stations in the Condamine River catchment to Cotswold as shown on the map, are available from the Bureau of Meteorology upon request.
At each flood warning river height station, the severity of flooding is described as minor, moderate or major according to the effects caused in the local area or in nearby downstream areas. Terms used in Flood Warnings are based on the following definitions.
Each river height station has a pre-determined flood classification which details heights on gauges at which minor, moderate and major flooding commences. Other flood heights may also be defined which indicate at what height the local road crossing or town becomes affected by floodwaters.
The table below shows the flood classifications for selected river height stations in the Condamine River catchment to Cotswold.
The above details are correct at the time of preparing this document. Up-to-date flood classifications and other details for all flood warning stations in the network are at:
Flood gauge information
For the latest rainfall and river height conditions please use the following link:
For the latest rainfall and river height network map please use the following link:Network maps
For further information, contact:
The Regional Hydrology Manager, Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 413, Brisbane Q 4001