Murray Unregulated River Water Sources – Murray below Mulwala Water Source (Buccaneit and Cunninyeuk creeks)

Temporary restriction notice Temporary Water Restriction (Buccaneit and Cunninyeuk Creeks) (No 2) Order 2020
Licences affected Unregulated river access licences
Date restriction started15 September 2020
Date restriction ends 30 June 2021
Status Current

Reason for Decision

Temporary Water Restriction (Buccaneit and Cunninyeuk Creeks) (No 2) Order 2020 (PDF 5.5 MB)

Background

In September 2020, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment–Energy, Environment and Science (EES) is planning to deliver held (licenced) environmental water from its NSW Murray Regulated River (conveyance) entitlement to the Buccaneit and Cunninyeuk Creeks as a spring flow. These unregulated watercourses are located in the Murray below Mulwala Water Source, as described in the Water Sharing Plan for the Murray Unregulated River Water Sources 2011.

The entitlement is a regulated river (conveyance) access licence and is held by the Minister for the Environment.

The Buccaneit and Cunninyeuk Creeks have suffered from the lack of flows since the millennium drought due to reduced frequency of floods. Without environmental water the creeks would not be flowing.

EES plan to start flows with an initial filling of the creek system in spring 2020 with small top-ups to maintain water quality through the season when required before being let to dry down in autumn 2021.  A total of 2000 ML will be ordered from Hume Dam and up to 70 ML/day will be delivered through the creek system.

The objectives of the environmental flow event are to maintain the extent and maintain condition of River Red Gum trees and increase the distribution and abundance of native fish species.

A temporary water restriction has been made to ensure environmental water delivered in these unregulated creeks is not extracted by licence holders. As such, this restriction is in the public interest as it will manage water for environmental purposes.

The temporary restriction does not apply to stock and domestic water.

Reasons for decisions

Section 324 of the Water Management Act 2000 allows the Minister or delegate to order that temporary water restrictions within a water source(s) are to have effect for a specified period, if these restrictions are determined to be in the public interest.

Examples of the public interest referred to in section 324(1) are “to cope with a water shortage, threat to public health or safety or to manage water for environmental purposes”.

It is in the public interest to make an order to restrict take in parts of the Buccaneit and Cunninyeuk creeks within the Murray Below Mulwala Water Source in order to manage water for environmental purposes, for the following reasons:

  • These creek systems have suffered from lack of flows since the millennium drought due to reduced frequency of floods. Due to the lack of flows, many of the fringing River Red Gum trees are in poor condition.
  • The delivery and protection of this held (licenced) environmental water aims to restore the health and condition of fringing River Red Gum trees and increase the distribution and abundance of native fish species.
  • In the absence of this environmental release, the natural river flows are currently insufficient to trigger lawful access by unregulated river access licence holders as the creeks are running dry.
  • If the environmental release took place without a restriction being imposed, holders of unregulated river access licences could lawfully take water forming part of that release.  If this was to occur, the environment outcomes described above could not be achieved, which would not be in the public interest.

Accordingly, the section 324 order is being made to protect the delivery of NSW Murray Conveyance Water as held environmental water in parts of the Buccaneit and Cunninyeuk creeks. The section 324 orders also includes the ability to lift orders, via responsive management. This means that access to water, by holders of unregulated access licences, will be allowed in the event of natural flows occurring following rainfall.

Emma Solomon

Executive Director, Water Policy, Planning and Sciences

11 September 2020