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Australian state eases drought restrictions

by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) April 6, 2009
Australia's eastern Queensland state said Monday it would ease tough water restrictions imposed during the worst drought in a century after heavy rains took dam levels to a five-year high.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said three dams servicing the state capital Brisbane and the rest of the state's south east had reached 50 percent capacity for the first time since 2004.

But the good news came at a cost -- the heavy rain caused flash flooding in south east Queensland that left one women dead and caused damage estimated at 30 million dollars (21 million US).

Bligh declared that the area's water crisis was over, even though it will officially remain in drought while dam levels are below 60 percent.

"This means residents will be rewarded with an easing of water restrictions," Bligh said.

"The Queensland Water Commission is now moving to downgrade the south east's water restriction level from high to medium."

She said the change, which will take effect by the end of the week, meant residents could use garden sprinklers for the first time in three years.

It will also lift the official target for water use in the area from 170 litres (37.4 gallons) to 200 litres (44 gallons) per person per day.

All Australia's major cities have imposed water restrictions due to the drought, which has lasted for more than a decade in some areas.

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