The Menindee Lakes system is located on the Darling River, about 200 kilometres upstream of the junction of the Darling and Murray Rivers. Traditionally an ephemeral lake system, the lakes were modified during the 1950s and 1960s to provide Broken Hill with a reliable water supply, and to supply water for irrigation to NSW, Victoria, and South Australia.
The lakes system consists of nine lakes, but water is typically stored in the four larger lakes – Lake Pamamaroo, Lake Wetherell, Lake Menindee, and Lake Cawndilla. Collectively the lakes have a nominal full supply volume of 1,730 gigalitres, and can be surcharged to hold up to 2,050 gigalitres during floods. The lakes are also a significant source of wetland ecosystem services, and when full, support more bird species than does Kakadu.
Prior to the modification of the lakes to provide a storage system, the lakes would naturally fill during high river flows and subsequently recede, forming a series of pools which would periodically evaporate entirely. The alteration of the lakes through the addition of weirs, regulators, levees, and channels to allow the storage and release of water has substantially changed this natural regime, while storage of water within the lakes has losses of an average 426 GL per year through evaporation.
Water efficiency and reform initiatives
The NSW Government is now seeking to return the lakes to a more natural flow regime, while reducing the substantial losses to evaporation. NSW has undertaken a series of investigations since 1995 to identify potential structural works and management changes to improve the efficiency of the Menindee Lakes and reduce evaporation. These are now being pursued as part of the Menindee Lakes Sustainable Diversion Limit project, under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
- Menindee Lakes SDL project summary
- Menindee Lakes detailed fact sheet
- Feasibility study summary – to be released
Real time flow data
Look up all real-time data available on the Menindee Lakes, including total figures for the Menindee Lakes, as well as specific figures for Lake Menindee, Lake Cawndilla, Lake Pamamaroo, Lake Wetherell, and Lake Cawndilla plus Menindee.
Water sharing plans
Water sharing rules relevant to the Menindee Lakes can be found at the Water Sharing Plan status page.