Independent panel releases final report on first flush event

Media release | 9 September 2020

An independent panel commissioned to assess the management of the 2020 Northern Basin first flush event has released its final report, Secretary for the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment Jim Betts has announced.

The assessment was commissioned after water restrictions were imposed on water take from rivers and floodplains to manage flows across the Northern NSW Basin rivers, following significant rainfall across NSW and Queensland in January and February this year.

Mr Betts said the Independent Panel has reviewed actions undertaken during the first flush event and has made recommendations on how the Department, WaterNSW and the Natural Resources and Access Regulator can improve the management of future events.

“I want to thank the panel members, Dr Wendy Craik and Greg Claydon, and the many stakeholders who provided submissions at all stages of the assessment,” he said.

“The Panel has found that ultimately the restrictions imposed, including on floodplain harvesting, led to significant flows downstream, providing much-needed water for the environment and communities throughout the Northern Basin.

“Water supply was secured for many communities across the Northern Basin, and Menindee Lakes now has 12 to 18 months’ water supply for local and downstream requirements in the Lower Darling River. “The Panel found there is room for improvement though and made several recommendations that will help us improve management of future events like this.”

The Panel made 10 recommendations designed to improve management and communication of temporary water restrictions, provide better modelling and real-time monitoring capabilities, and ensure first flush management provides for connectivity between water sources.

“The NSW Government is committed to improving water management across the state and we will now carefully consider all 10 recommendations and look at how these can be successfully implemented,” Mr Betts said.

“We will continue to work closely with stakeholders to ensure water management in NSW balances the needs of communities, industry and the environment.”

The Final Report from the Independent Panel Assessment of the 2020 Northern Basin First Flush Event is now available online.