Macquarie River

Macquarie River 
Drought Stage

Stage 1 - Normal management

Stage 1 Return to Stage 1 normal operations on 3 September 2020 from recovering. Eased from stage 3 severe on 14 August and Stage 4 critical on 13 May 2020 for Macquarie. Cudgegong eased to stage 1 normal operations on 14 August.
Storage Levels
  • Burrendong Dam at 44% (544 GL) compared to 94 GL or just over 5% full on 1 July 2019.
  • Windamere Dam at 29% (106 GL) compared to 120 GL (33%) on 1 July 2019.
  • New drought of record - inflows were approximately 1/3 of previous record low inflow in 2019.
Allocations
  • Zero for general security allocations until September 2020 when first general security allocation expected. Full full town, domestic and stock and high security allocations announced on 1 July 2020 for Macquarie and Cudgegong Rivers.
  • Full access to all previously suspended Macquarie carryover water permitted on 14 August 2020.
  • Zero also for general security in 2019/20 and all carryover water was fully suspended.
  • Last general security allocation made in August 2017.
  • Reduced high priority (town, domestic and stock) and high security allocations for 2019/20. These were increased to 100% on 13 May 2020.
Actions
  • Initial transfer of water from Windamere to Burrendong Dam in January 2019. Inflows  in first half of 2020 have delayed the second phase of the transfer (leaving the agreed 70 GL reserve in Windamere Dam) to at least February 2022.
  • Environmental flow rules and allocation provisions in the water sharing plan were suspended in July 2019 until end of June 2020 because of the need to conserve water for critical town water supply needs.
  • Raising of Warren Weir ceased regulated river flow to the lower river and Duck and Crooked Creeks from October 2019 and into early 2020 to prioritise water for towns, including Dubbo, Nyngan and Cobar. Regulated flow in Gunningbar Creek ceased in December 2019. Supply downstream of Warren and into Guningbar Creek resumed in July 2020 with removal of emergency drought works in May 2020.
  • Planning occurred during 2019 to enable pumping Burrendong Dam of storage below outlet works, but was deferred with improvements in supply in 2020.
  • Restrictions on access to inflows applied during January and February 2020 across the Northern Basin limiting access to critical needs. These restrictions ended late February, with some limited access to certain areas during this period where flows had exceeded target levels.
  • Some access to supplementary water delayed in April for a short period to allow flows into the Northern reedbed of the Macquarie Marshes.
  • The Government committed $8.3 million for the off-stream storage for Nyngan and Cobar, $2 million for critical maintenance of the Albert Priest Channel which supplies Nyngan and Cobar, $30 million to Dubbo to expand its borefield and $2 million to allow Narromine to access groundwater.
  • Mapping of critical fish refuge pools. In February 2019, 59 endangered Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeons were rescued from drying pools in two creeks in the Macquarie River catchment and relocated to refuge sites, including Taronga Western Plans Zoo. In November 2019 220 fish were relocated to hatcheries or other river areas.
  • New dissolved oxygen sensors were installed in Macquarie River and a large bubble plume aerator at Burrendong Dam in 2019 to improve the quality of remaining water.
  • Works to reinstate the temperature curtain at Burrendong Dam completed.
Issues
  • Environmental account water can now be released with the ending of the suspension of the rules on 1 July 2020. Small translucency releases were made in July and September 2020.
  • Fish deaths in the Macquarie river near Wellington, Dubbo and below Warren and in Cudgegong River in January/early February 2020 as a result of short sharp rises in river levels from local storm events.
Outlook
  • Inflows in first half of 2020 have secured high priority supplies for 24 months.
  • Some 162 GL of inflows occurred during August allowing a general security allocation to be made in September 2020.