Flows resume in the Lower Darling River and temporary water restriction repealed

Media release | 30 March 2020

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment today announced the lifting of the temporary water restriction for the Lower Darling River, now that flows have resumed.

As a result of recent rainfall events across the northern NSW Murray-Darling Basin and subsequent inflows to the Barwon-Darling River system, it is anticipated that 290 to 380 gigalitres (GL) will flow into the Menindee Lakes, with flows starting to enter the lakes on 10 March.

Based on the forecast, there will be enough water captured in the Menindee system to provide connectivity to the Murray and deliver high priority needs, including critical environmental needs along the Lower Darling for at least 12 to 18 months – possibly longer.

The repeal of the temporary water restriction will allow access to remaining water in high security and general security accounts in 2019-20. This will not impact on the ability to supply water for critical needs. It is expected that full allocations for town water, domestic and stock and high security allocations for the rest of this water year will also be announced in the next Water Allocation Statement on Wednesday 1 April 2020.

This is consistent with the approach taken in the northern valleys, where suspensions of carryover water were lifted in the Border Rivers and Upper and Lower Namoi Rivers once 12 months of water for critical needs was available in storage.

Water releases to the Lower Darling River from Menindee Lakes began on Thursday 26 March, commencing at 500 megalitres (ML)/day to a peak of 3,000 ML/day by Sunday. Releases will now be held at 3,000 ML/day for the next 7 days and then reduced by 250 ML/day back to a flow of 300 ML/day. This will create the pulse flow necessary to manage water quality and associated fish risks. These are the first significant flows to occur in the Lower Darling River since 2016.

Although the releases will provide substantial benefits to fish communities in the lower Darling, there is the risk that when flows first enter the refuge pools there may be a short-term risk and resulting fish deaths from the initial turn-over of poor quality water.

Further information about the lifting of temporary water restriction.

Information regarding flows into the Lower Darling River is available on the department’s website.

Please report any fish deaths or observations to the Fishers Watch Phoneline on 1800 043 536.