Temporary Water Restriction - Barwon-Darling Unregulated River and Intersecting Streams Unregulated Water Sources
Reason for Decision
A section 324 restriction on pumping in the Intersecting stream and the Darling River from Culgoa junction to Menindee Lakes by the unregulated river licence holders is required to address critical water needs (town water supply, basic landholder rights, high security and critical in-stream needs) in Darling River system.
River pumping is not permitted by these licence holders to allow replenishment of town water supplies, supply for high priority and high security users, instream refuge pools in the local catchment, and flow into the Lower Darling systems.
The temporary restriction does not apply to the take of water for testing metering equipment, and does not apply to the take of water from farm dams.
The restriction commences on 4 November 2019 and ceases on 31 December 2019.
Table 1: Water sources and licences subject to the restriction:
|Barwon-Darling Unregulated River Water Source from Culgoa junction to Lake Wetherell.||unregulated river (A Class) access licence|
|Barwon-Darling Unregulated River Water Source from Culgoa junction to Lake Wetherell.||unregulated river (B Class) access licence|
|Barwon-Darling Unregulated River Water Source from Culgoa junction to Lake Wetherell.||unregulated river (C Class) access licence|
|Water Sharing Plan for the Intersecting Streams Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2011||unregulated river access licences|
All northern regulated valleys, and both the Barwon-Darling and Lower Darling, are in Stage 3 severe or Stage 4 critical drought. Inflows into the Barwon-Darling River and the major northern storages are at record low levels.
Many town water supplies are vulnerable and domestic and stock replenishments have been limited. There has not been full connectivity to and along the Barwon-Darling, and no flows into the Lower Darling since February 2019. There is a high risk of significant and widespread fish death events occurring again in summer.
The overarching aim of the restriction is to ensure that local critical needs (town water supply, basic landholder rights, and environmental needs) are met with the inflows following the extended dry period, and will contribute to downstream connectivity.
Reasons for Decision
Temporary water restriction – section 324
Section 324 of the Water Management Act 2000 (the Act) allows the Minister or delegate to order that temporary water restrictions within a water source are to have effect for a specified period, if these restrictions are determined to be in the public interest.
Based on the information outlined in the Background section, there is a public interest in making an order to restrict take in the in the water sources in Table 1 as follows:
- To cope with a water shortage
The Barwon Darling and the Lower Darling are at (criticality stage 3 or Stage 4 under the Extreme Events Policy) and must be protected for critical human needs. Replenishment flows to many systems have not occurred for some time for domestic and stock purposes, and water is being carted to many areas.
Up until the recent rainfall town water supplies for towns on the Darling had not received inflow for 172 days Louth, 167 Tilpa and 117 days Wilcannia. Bourke has not received flows for in excess of 400 days.
- Threat to public health and safety
Town water supplies are reaching low levels across much of the north-west and far west of NSW. Many could potentially be out of river water by next year if no or only low inflows occur into storages. Walgett and Bourke’s town water supply weir pool will fail in the next few weeks. Similarly many creek systems in these valleys have not had full replenishment flows to meet domestic and stock needs and are having to cart water. It is essential that all inflows are protected for these higher priority critical needs.
Town water supply and domestic supplies are crucial for public health and safety and are under threat without intervention. Many town water supply weir pools are at reduced or low levels. The restriction is required to ensure replenishment of town water supply from the recent inflows.
Many communities also rely on access to surface water points for firefighting supplies. Also community well-being – mental health and recreational opportunities in small towns on rivers is linked to water being available in rivers.
- Manage water for environmental purposes
Protecting upstream flows will also enhance the prospects of water reaching Menindee and ultimately connecting to refuge pools and supplying critical needs in the Lower Darling.
Flows over the Spring are important for replenishment of drought refuge areas for aquatic survival and providing more resilience before summer, however there have been no flows over winter.
Flows and conditions will be monitored. Water users will be kept up to date with the prospects of water access through water user forums, drought engagement meetings and water allocation statements.
A/ Executive Director, Water Policy Planning and Sciences.
4 November 2019