Barwon-Darling River

Barwon-Darling River 
Drought Stage

Stage 2 - Emerging drought

Stage 2 recovering - de-escalated from Stage 4 critical to Stage 3 severe on 23 March 2020 and then to Stage 2 on 1 May 2020.

Allocations
  • Allocations announced on 1 July 2020, A and B class pumping triggers have been met in sections of the river in September 2020.
  • Allocations announced on 1 July 2019, but water unable to be pumped by irrigators until temporary water restrictions were lifted in late February 2020 above Culgoa junction and 6 March below Culgoa junction.
  • From end of February 2020 until June, river levels variously triggered A, B and in some sections C class pumping along the Barwon-Darling.
River Level
  • A release of environmental water Northern Connectivity Event in autumn/winter of 2018 from the Gwydir and Border Rivers provided a small flow down to Menindee Lakes.
  • During March to August 2019 inflows from tributaries, local rainfall and another environmental release - Northern Fish Flow event - restarted flows in some sections and replenished town weir pools and fish refuge pools. However, flows only reached to just upstream of Bourke because of the dry conditions.
  • Rainfall in early November 2019 provided flows down the Warrego River and flows over the Bourke town water weir. This was the first time in over 400 days that flows had occurred over the Bourke town weir.
  • Flows re-commenced along the Barwon-Darling River from February 2020 as a result of inflows from the northern catchments which were restricted from extraction through river pumping and from floodplain harvesting across the Northern Basin. By March 2020 flows had reached Wilcannia and began entering Menindee Lakes from 10 March 2020.
Actions
  • Restrictions placed on pumping from mid-January to end of February 2020 to protect inflows from northern catchments for critical needs. These were lifted upstream of Culgoa junction on 27 February and downstream of Culgoa junction on 6 March 2020.
  • Restriction on A, B, C class pumping between Culgoa junction and Menindee Lakes between 4 November to 31 December 2019 to protect inflows for critical needs.
  • A restriction on pumping from the lower Namoi River applied on 31 March 2019 allowed some flow to reach Walgett, at the junction with the Barwon River. This restriction was repealed on 6 May 2019.
  • The 2019 environmental water release of around 30 GL from Glenlyon Dam in the Border Rivers and Copeton Dam in the Gwydir reached Warraweena on 28 July, but not Bourke - travelling over 1,500 river kilometres.
  • Two aerators installed in the Collarenebri weir pool in collaboration with local fishing club and Aboriginal community.
  • Funding provided to towns for emergency bore supplies and in the case of Walgett and Bourke for works to improve quality.
  • Critical fish refuges pools have been mapped along the Barwon-Darling.
  • Critical Water Advisory Panel - operating.
Issues
  • Until restrictions were lifted towards the end of February/start of March 2020, Barwon-Darling irrigators had not been able to pump any significant water since mid-2017.
  • Prior to the 2020 flows, flows had been mostly protected to replenish town, domestic and stock supplies and refuge pools.
  • In 2019 towns had to access artesian bore water because of lack of surface water supplies.  Concerns over higher sodium levels.
  • A number of fish deaths because of drying refuge pools in 2019.
  • Return of flows along the Barwon-Darling River in 2020 resulted in fish spawning and dispersal of larvae down river to the Menindee Lakes.
Outlook
  • Significant rainfall occurred across the northern valleys over January - April 2020.
  • By July 2020 Barwon-Darling was flowing from Mungindi to Menindee Lakes - the first time substantial flow has occurred along the full length of the river and into Menindee Lakes for a number of years.
  • Some pumping is permitted along most of the river.