Peel River

Peel River 
Drought stage

Stage 1 - Normal management

Stage 1 normal operations. De-escalated from Stage 4 critical in September 2020, then eased from Stage 3 severe to stage 2 recovering in November 2020. In January 2021 the system returned to normal operations.

Storage Level
  • Chaffey Dam at 42% (42 GL) of active storage compared to only 14% in June 2020.
Allocations
  • General security allocation of 16% announced in January 2021 – the first general security allocation for over two years, that is, since October 2018.
  • High security and town water allocations were also increased to 100% in January 2021. Previously these had been only 70% for high priority (town and domestic and stock) and 50% for high security users in 2019/20 and first half of 2020/21.
Action
  • Although no general security allocations, some access to uncontrolled flows in sections of the Peel River for general security users was permitted in 2020.
  • Restrictions on commercial access across the Northern Basin in January/February 2020 to protect flows for critical needs. These ended on 28 February but access for high security users in the Peel was permitted during most of this period.
  • Temporary weir was constructed in the Peel River at Dungowan in 2019 to extend supply for Tamworth and reduce around 17,000 ML in transmission losses below Chaffey Dam. The Government committed $3.4 million for these works and $2 million for further supply investigations. This temporary weir was removed in June 2020 with the commencement of the operation of the new $40m Chaffey Dam to Dungowan pipeline.
  • Rule in the water sharing plan requiring a minimum daily release from Chaffey Dam suspended on 2 December 2019 until 30 June 2020. Pulse releases for environmental purposes were being made instead until the Chaffey Dam pipeline commenced operation on 17 June 2020.
  • Environmental releases were then subject to rules in the pipeline authorisation. This allowed a release of 61.5 ML accrued under the authorisation in late July 2020 to wet the reaches below the storage to Duncans Creek – about 7.5 km which had stopped flowing.
  • Use of pipeline ceased in late July 2020 when Tamworth Council was able to access supply from river flows and Dungowan and Chaffey Dam reached 20%. Normal minimum flow release of 3 ML/day then resumed
  • Tamworth Regional Council eased town water supply restrictions on 31 August 2020 from Level 5 to Level 4 when Chaffey Dam reached 25% and further reduced these to Level 3 on 1 November 2020 when Chaffey Dam reached 30%.
  • Government has announced that it will construct a new larger Dungowan Dam.
  • Mixers were installed at priority sites in the Peel to improve quality of remaining pools during the drought.
Issues
  • The Peel Valley was rated as in Stage 4 critical from August 2019 until September 2020 when storage levels began improving.
  • Inflows into the dam were low and transmission losses below Chaffey Dam in 2019 were at record high levels.
  • Supply below Dungowan restricted from the start of December 2019 and alternative supply required for downstream commercial users. Tributary inflows below the dam from late January 2020 provided some supplies for high priority and high security users, although the only regulated releases from the dam in the second half of 2020 were minimum environmental releases only.
  • General security licence holders have had access to uncontrolled flows in 2020.
  • Some fish deaths in December 2019 below Dungowan as a result of ceasing flows and in January 2020 as a result of poor water quality from storm generated inflows.
Outlook
  • With the back-up of the pipeline from Chaffey Dam, town water supplies will be able to be met until 2022 even if inflows cease.
  • With Chaffey Dam now holding 42%, general security allocations have been made and releases for water orders can resume.