Despite a few rainy days, the ACT and all local government areas adjoining it are either currently considered drought affected, or they are experiencing drought or intense drought.
The ACT's farming community is looking towards spring rainfall before they can say the region's drought has lifted, with a forecast wet winter a welcome relief in the meantime after three very dry years.
The prospect of the drought soon breaking comes as water usage in March and April was lower than the same period last year, defying Icon Water's expectations for the coronavirus lockdown period.
The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast a wetter than average winter in Canberra, with warmer conditions in the Indian Ocean driving moisture into the atmosphere.
Bureau of Meteorology senior climatologist Dr Blair Trewin said Canberra had experienced a prolonged dry spell, including marking three years in a row with less than 500 millimetres of rain from 2017 to 2019.
"I think a lot of people would perceive it as this year as being a very wet year, but you're only tracking about 15 per cent above average so far in Canberra. But because it's such a contrast from last year, it feels like a very wet year even though it's not so unusual," Dr Trewin said.
He said Canberra was sheltered from the west and north west, where moisture would come from in NSW, but there was still a good chance of increased rainfall. Further south, Cooma could see even less rain - the town's average July rainfall is lower than notoriously dry Bourke in north-west NSW.
"Canberra falls in the transition zone and it's not as strong a wet signal for Canberra as it is for the other parts," Dr Trewin said.
Icon Water managing director Ray Hezkial said the city's average water consumption rate a day was 144 megalitres in March and April, down from an average consumption of 165 megalitres a day in the same period last year.
"I think that's generally attributable to a couple of the proceeding wet months, so again that would indicate really here in Canberra our response to water consumption is quite closely tied to what the weather's doing," Mr Hezkial said.
Although dam levels are expected to improve, water restrictions could not be ruled out completely. The level fell below 45 per cent in February but has risen again to 53.8 per cent.
"The prospects of restrictions has been pushed a bit further down into the future, and that's obviously off the back of the [Bureau of Meteorology's] forecast for a wet winter. ... If that actually eventuates, coupled with the continued reduction in consumption and a focus on permanent water conservation rules ... we think we're going to see a pretty significant improvement in our water storage levels," Mr Hezkial said.
ACT Rural Landholders Association president Tom Allen said autumn had been the wettest in the region since 1988, but spring rain would be needed before farmers could definitively say the drought was over.
The ACT and NSW governments stopped issuing drought declarations - which activated assistance programs - more than a decade ago.
Mr Allen said the ACT government should offer a third year of drought resilience funding in 2020-21. Current support programs will end on June 30
"You can't move out of a drought going into a wintertime in Canberra's climate. So we're waiting until the end of September to see if the seasons come back to normal," Mr Allen said.
"By normal, I mean our rainfall average here is about 50 to 55 millimetres per month over the full 12 months. If we can get those sort of normal rainfalls and have a normal season - September leading into spring - things will look a bit rosy for the first time since 2016."
The NSW Department of Primary Industry makes drought information available for each of the state's parishes, grouped by local government area.
Council areas surrounding the ACT need consistent rainfall at least at median levels over winter to increase drought recovery chances in spring, a spokesman for the NSW Department of Primary Industry said.
"Most areas neighbouring the ACT currently have long-term soil moisture deficits, particularly south of the ACT. A consistent winter rainfall pattern is needed to recharge these deficits prior to spring," the spokesman said.
"Pasture growth rates are typically reduced by cold winter temperatures. The ideal situation would be to attain adequate soil moisture recharge in winter so that pasture growth can be optimised when warmer temperatures return in spring."