Temporary water restriction for Namoi and Macquarie water sources

Temporary Water Restriction (Namoi and Macquarie Water Sources) Order 2019 (section 324 order)

Government Gazette
Number 29, Sunday 31 March 2019

Background

A rainfall event occurred on 30 March 2019, resulting in inflows to the Peel, Namoi and Macquarie River catchments that the department considers should be protected from general security extraction due to current extended drought conditions.

Current drought criticality levels

  • Lower Namoi - stage 4
  • Macquarie – stage 3
  • Barwon Darling – stage 4

Visit Extreme events policy

Namoi

Some tributaries of the Namoi River downstream of Keepit Dam are experiencing flows. These include the Peel River, the Coxs Creek at Boggabri, Brigalow Creek downstream of Wee Waa, and Baradine Creek downstream of Bugilbone. The Namoi River commenced flowing at Boggabri and at the Brigalow Creek confluence on Sunday, 31 March 2019. There is a chance for the various flows to connect the full length of the Namoi River from the Junction of the Peel River to the Walgett Weir.

In addition, flows have arrived at the confluence of the Namoi and the Peel River, due to upstream event flows below Chaffey Dam. Small inflows have been recorded into Chaffey Dam and a short fresh has been observed downstream of Chaffey, with two peaks of almost 2500 ML/d.

Announcements to enable access to uncontrolled flows under the Water Sharing Plan for the Peel Valley Regulated, Unregulated, Alluvium and Fractured Rock Water Sources 2010 in the Peel River below Chaffey Dam will not be made, despite flow triggers having been met. WaterNSW customers were notified on 31 March 2019.

There remains a shortfall of water for delivery of remaining general security account balances in the Lower Namoi, and the department seeks to protect inflows in this water source for essential needs (including town water supplies, stock and domestic and basic landholder rights) and to enable delivery of high security water to entitlement holders.

Macquarie

Marthaguy Creek and lesser tributaries are flowing in the Macquarie unregulated river catchment. Marthaguy Creek peaked at circa 450 ML/d near Carinda. Marthaguy Creek joins the Macquarie River upstream of the confluence of the Barwon River.

There is 2,000 ML of water in environmental water allowances in Chaffey and 1,000 ML of held environmental water in the Namoi. The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and the Office of Environment and Heritage are currently considering a connectivity release event into the Barwon-Darling in mid-April and will be advised of this natural event and the advantages of releasing environmental water on to a wet river.

The department seeks to protect inflows in the Macquarie for essential needs (including town water supplies, stock and domestic and basic landholder rights) and to maximise the potential for connection of this source to the Barwon Darling.

Accordingly, the section 324 order is required to protect flows for essential needs and enable delivery of high security water in the lower Namoi and lower Macquarie, and to maximise environmental benefits of the proposed northern connectivity event. The section 324 order restricts the take of water under the following classes of licences:

  • Regulated river (general security) access licences in the Lower Namoi Regulated River Source
  • Unregulated river and unregulated river (special additional high flow) access licences in certain lower Namoi unregulated river water sources, except in accordance with cl.47(18)(a) of the Water Sharing Plan for the Namoi Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2012 (which include for the purpose of fruit washing, hygiene, poultry watering and misting)
  • Unregulated river and unregulated river (special additional high flow) access licences, and unregulated river (regulated supply) access licences (except for the purposes of town water supply) in certain lower Macquarie Bogan unregulated river water sources.

Reasons for decision

Section 324 of the Water Management Act 2000 (the Act) allows the Minister or a delegate to direct, by order, that temporary water restrictions within a water source(s) 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) include to cope with a water shortage, threat to public health or safety or to manage water for environmental purposes”.

Based on the information outlined in the background section, there is a public interest in making an order to restrict take in the lower Namoi and lower Macquarie water sources as follows:

  • To cope with a water shortage

Remaining water supplies in the Lower Namoi are at critically low levels (drought criticality stage 4 under the Extreme Events Policy) and must be protected for critical human needs. Replenishment flows have been foregone until now and water is being carted to homesteads. The Barwon-Darling is also at stage 4 under the Extreme Events Policy and, if a restriction is put in place, there is a possibility of flows from both Macquarie and Namoi valleys reaching the Barwon.

  • Threat to public health and safety

Town water supply and domestic supplies are crucial for public health and safety and are under threat without intervention. The township of Walgett has exhausted its weir supply. These mitigation measures are needed to recover supplies and provide essential needs access in both the Namoi and Macquarie Rivers.

  • Manage water for environmental purposes

A connection of the Namoi River, and separately the Macquarie River to the stem of the Barwon River, is sought. These systems were last connected to the Barwon River prior to summer and the devastating fish kills in the Barwon Darling and its tributaries. The protection effected by the section 324 order targets replenishing refugia / pools in the Namoi and Macquarie Rivers and retaining water in Lake Keepit, where fish kills have already occurred. The protection targets pools / refugia downstream of the confluence of the Namoi and the Macquarie with the Barwon, depending on the extent of flows.

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder has signalled her intent to deliver a northern connectivity event via the release of held environmental water from various storages scheduled for mid-April. This event is expected to connect the Barwon-Darling to Brewarrina and possibly beyond. Combined, these flows can break a cease-to-flow event of over 100 days in duration and improve drought refuge habitat, including water quality. Connection of the Namoi River, and separately the Macquarie River to the stem of the Barwon River, will maximise the environmental benefits of the northern connectivity event.

Rachel Connell, Executive Director, Department of Industry – Water

31 March 2019