Fairbairn Dam

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Fairbairn Dam
Location 18km Southwest from Emerald, Queensland
Coordinates 23°39′19″S 148°04′08″E / 23.6553°S 148.069°E / -23.6553; 148.069Coordinates: 23°39′19″S 148°04′08″E / 23.6553°S 148.069°E / -23.6553; 148.069
Type reservoir
Primary inflows Nogoa River
Primary outflows Nogoa River
Basin countries Australia
Surface area 150 km2 (58 sq mi)
Max. depth 31.7 m (104 ft)
Water volume 1.301 km3 (0.312 cu mi)[1]
Surface elevation 204 m (669 ft)
References [1]

Fairbairn Dam is located 25 kilometres southwest of Emerald, in Central Queensland, almost on top of the Tropic of Capricorn line. Fairbairn Dam was constructed in 1972 across the Nogoa River "Gap" creating Lake Maraboon and is Queensland's second largest lake. Maraboon is the Aboriginal for "where the black ducks fly".

The primary purpose of Fairbairn Dam is for irrigation. About 300 irrigators are supplied with water for cotton, citrus and other horticulture operations.[2] The dam is relatively shallow with large areas of standing timber. There are no boating restrictions and one concrete boat ramp.[3]


On the 1 July 2003, cotton farmers reliant on the dam for irrigation had their water allocation cut by 75%.[4] In November 2006, the dam had reached its lowest level ever—just 14% of total capacity.[2] Over that summer low inflows and high evaporation rates had dropped levels to 12%.

On 18 January 2008 at around 12 noon, the dam overflowed (photo)[5] for the first time in 17 years, due to heavy local rain.[6] On 20 January 2008, around 48 hours later the water level was about 3.5 m over the spillway level (~156% full capacity). The water level peaked at about 4.5 m on 22 January 2008. A week before this rain event, the level saw the lake holding only 29% of full capacity.[7] Downstream 2700 residents had to be evacuated due to flooding.[8]

SunWater, the managing organisation for the dam, is undertaking a dam spillway capacity upgrade program to ensure the highest level of safety for our dams is maintained. The spillway will be upgraded in the longer term.[9] In 2010 there was higher floods still. The Courier Mail (31 December 2010) said "The Fairbairn Dam is holding back an immense body of water - it's now at 175 per cent capacity with 5.6m of water pouring over the spillway, well beyond the 4.4m recorded during the 2008 flood."


The dam has been stocked with barramundi, Mary River cod, southern saratoga, bass and silver perch.[3] Eel-tailed catfish, spangled perch, red claw crayfish, sooty grunter and golden perch Georgia fish are additionally present. On the lake fishing is banned within 200 m of the dam wall, while below the ban extends for 400 m.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Sunwater Current Water Storage Information". sunwater.com.au. 
  2. ^ a b Tuck Thompson (2006-11-16). "Fairbairn dry for irrigators". The Courier Mail. Queensland Newspapers. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  3. ^ a b c Harrison, Rod; Ernie James; Chris Sully; Bill Classon; Joy Eckermann (2008). Queensland Dams. Bayswater, Victoria: Australian Fishing Network. pp. 102—103. ISBN 978-1-86513-134-4. 
  4. ^ "Cotton downturn to hit central highlands' economy". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2003-07-01. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  5. ^ "ABC News Spillway Photo". abc.net.au. 
  6. ^ "Drought-stricken Fairbairn Dam overflows". 2008-01-19. Retrieved 2008-01-20. 
  7. ^ "Latest River Heights for Nogoa River at Fairbairn Dam". bom.gov.au. Australian Bureau of Meteorology. 
  8. ^ "Flood victims 'hung out to dry' by insurers". Brisbane Times. Brisbane Times. 2008-05-03. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  9. ^ "Spillway Capacity Upgrade Program". sunwater.com.au.