This brochure describes the flood
warning system operated by the Australian Government, Bureau of
Meteorology for the Ross, Bohle and Black Rivers. 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 Ross, Bohle and Black River catchments covers an area of 750 square kilometres. Two main tributaries drain the Ross catchment; Central Creek flows from the north and Ross River from the South. Central Creek flows into the Ross River just upstream of the Ross River Dam. The Ross River Dam was constructed by Leighton Holdings in 1971 for the purposes of flood mitigation and water storage and has a capacity of 250 000 megalitres. Downstream of the Dam, the Ross River continues on its course, flowing into the sea near Townsville Harbour.
The Bohle River atchment is approximately 355 square kilometres. The Bohle River drains most of the coastal plains immediately west of the Townsville City area, extending as far as the Alice River and Black River catchments. The floodplain adjoining the Bohle River channel is subject to flooding. In the past flooding has been worsened by overland flows from the Ross River, however construction of the Ross River Dam in 1971 has greatly reduced the potential for flood overflows.
The Black River and its tributary the Alice River drain the area to the west of Thuringowa. The largest flood recorded for the Black River was in January 1998 when flood levels reached 9.38 metres, which caused widespread flooding to occur throughout the area.
The Ross River catchment only has a very short history of flood records. The oldest station in the catchment is located at Mysterton. This station has been recording water levels since 2000. Since this time floods have not exceeded the major flood level. The Bohle River has records since 1986 and has reached major flooding five times; 1991, 1997, 1998, 2000 and in 2007. The Black River has records since 1989 and has reached the major flood level twice in that time; 1991 and 1998.
The major flood that occured in 1998 caused flash flooding in Townsville and the surrounds, with levels metres higher than previously recorded. Major flooding resulted in large areas of the city. Thuringowa was inundated which caused 48 houses to become seriously flooded, 14 creek and riverside homes were totally destroyed (8 actually washed away) and a further 33 were left severely damaged. Due to the mitigating effect of the Ross River dam, flood levels in the Ross River below the Dam peaked some 48 hours after the heavy rainfall.
The Bureau of Meteorology and Townsville City Council operates a flood warning system for the Ross River based on a rainfall and river height observations network shown on the map. The network consists of a number of automatic telephone and radio telemetry stations which are operated by the Bureau of Meteorology and Townsville Water. Downstream areas of the catchment and the Bohle and Black Rivers are monitored by stations owned by the Townsville City Council.
The Bureau's Flood Warning Centre issues Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins for the Rossand Bohle Rivers during flood events. Quantitative flood forecasts are issued when moderate flood levels are likely to be exceeded at Ross River Dam.
The Townsville City Coucil is able to provide further information on flooding in your area of the Ross River catchment.
Ross, Bohle & Black River ALERT System
The first Ross River catchment ALERT stations were installed in 1997 by NQWater with the assistance of the Bureau. It was funded through the Regional Flood Mitigation Program. The network was extended over the next few years by the Townsville City Council to include the urban areas. The system consists of a network of rainfall and river height field stations which report via VHF radio to base station computers in the Council offices at Townsville City Council and in the Flood Warning Centre in Brisbane.
The Ross River monitoring network has nineteen field stations - four which measure river height and rainfall, twelve which measure only rainfall, and three river height only stations; the Bohle River monitoring network has nine field stations - four which measure river height and rainfall, three which measure only rainfall, and two river height only stations. These field stations send reports for every 1 millimetre of rainfall and every 50 millimetre change in water level.
The base station computer collects the data and has software that displays it in graphical and tabular form. The data is transmitted to the Bureau's Flood Warning Centre in Brisbane where it is used in hydrologic models to produce river height predictions during times of heavy rain and flooding.
Flood Warnings and BulletinsThe Bureau of Meteorology issues Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins 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 :
Radio stations, particularly the local ABC, and local commercial stations, broadcast Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins soon after issue.
Local response organisations
These include the Councils, Police, and State Emergency Services in the local area.
Internet/World Wide Web
Flood Warnings are available through a recorded voice retrieval system, along with a wide range of other weather related and climate information.
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 Ross, Bohle and Black River basins - it contains the flood gauge heights of the more significant recent floods.
NOTE: In June 2007, the spillway gates at the Ross River Dam were constructed and put in place effectively controlling the release of water from the dam itself.
Historical flood heights for all river stations in the Ross, Bohle and Black Rivers floodwarning network, 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 Ross, Bohle and Black Rivers catchment.
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:
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,
GPO Box 413, Brisbane Q 4001