Water eNews August 2019

Water news

August 2019  | ISSUE #7

Drought update

Drought in NSW North West

Severe drought conditions continue across the north-west and far-west of New South Wales. The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a drier than average spring, which is likely to continue the challenging conditions.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment manages water sources based on their stage of drought, grading from Stage 1, normal management, through to Stage 4, a critical drought. The Peel River and Border Rivers have now entered Stage 4 critical drought. The Lower Darling, Lower Namoi, Barwon-Darling, and Macquarie remain in Stage 4 critical drought.

Conditions have improved slightly in the south of the state, with rain and snow resulting in a 3% allocation for general security licences in the Murrumbidgee. For more information on critical valleys, please visit our website.

This week, Minister for Water Melinda Pavey and Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders announced an additional $78 million of water initiatives to help drought-affected communities in NSW. It includes $10.89 million towards four critical projects that will extend limited available supplies for Dubbo, Wellington, Nyngan and Cobar.

The challenging situation in the Macquarie Valley is highlighted in this graph from WaterNSW, which shows that the inflows into Burrendong Dam are about two-thirds less than in any other drought.

Drought graph

The NSW Government will continue to work with communities facing water restrictions and water shortages.

For more information on the NSW Government’s approach to the drought, please visit the drought hub.

Is the Snowy River hot or not?

Snowy River

The department's Water Science team have completed work that finally answers an old question: is water released into the Snowy River from the Jindabyne dam warmer or colder than it naturally should be?

Understanding the natural temperature of the water helps us use water for the environment in the most effective way. Early work in 2004 suggested that Jindabyne dam released colder water. This was rejected in 2008, with water temperatures suggested to be 5-7°C warmer during winter.

Since then, new data from environmental releases starting in 2010 and a 2006 multi-level offtake from greater depths in the dam have become available. The Water Science team used this data, and historical water temperature collected in the 1960’s to develop a natural water temperature model.  This model predicts what the current water temperatures should be.

The study found that there’s little change to temperatures in summer. However, temperatures are about 2°C warmer from March to July, with the biggest difference in June. The good news is that these temperatures are unlikely to have serious environmental impacts.

The works were completed as part of the broader Snowy Flow Response Monitoring and Modelling Program.

Minister Pavey pushes for transparency at Ministerial Council

In early August, the Ministerial Council met to discuss progress on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Minister Pavey and her Victorian counterpart, Minister Lisa Neville, expressed concerns about the flow rates of the proposed constraints projects. They noted that successful implementation of the constraints program will require close engagement with landholders and local communities.

The NSW and Victorian governments will push for greater transparency in the delivery of the Basin Plan and will commission an independent review of modelling of the flow rates under the proposed constraints projects. They will report back to the Ministerial Council in December.

The Ministerial Council recognised the need to improve community confidence in the Basin Plan, and supported the Commonwealth’s decision to establish an Inspector-General for water resources in the Murray-Darling. Mr Mick Keelty, AO APM, has been appointed as the interim Inspector-General.

The Ministerial Council also reviewed the Northern Basin toolkit measures for protecting low flows and environmental flows. The ministers approved these measures, and endorsed amendments to the Intergovernmental Agreement on Implementing Water Reform in the Murray-Darling Basin to enable the release of $180 million in Commonwealth funding.

Find out more.

Upper Namoi Valley floodplain management plan now in place

Namoi Valley Floodplains

The Floodplain Management Plan for the Upper Namoi Valley Floodplain 2019 commenced on 7 June 2019.

The Upper Namoi Valley plan is the third of six plans developed as part of the reform of floodplain management plans across the northern valleys of NSW’s Murray–Darling Basin.

The new plan will coordinate the future development of flood works on the floodplain, building on current practices. The plan outlines the types of flood works that may be considered for approval, advertising requirements for approvals, and standards for the acceptable impacts of the construction of flood works.

Preparation of the plan involved community input, with stakeholders invited to provide feedback during a public exhibition period in September-October 2016.

Funding for the NSW Healthy Floodplains Project is provided by the Australian Government’s Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program, as part of the implementation of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan in NSW.

Find out more.

Drones: good for (almost) everything

NRAR using drones

The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) is now using drones as part of their investigations, and the possibilities are vast.  Drones make investigative work easier, quicker and safer by providing a birds-eye view. Investigators can search rivers for illegal works and reach places not accessible by foot.

These lean, mean flying machines also give a new way to investigate unlawful activities. The scale and impact of allegations is easier to show and explain with a picture from above.

Drones can also take a series of photos on a pre-plotted flight path. These photos can then be stitched together to give a seamless wide area high resolution view, or turned into three-dimensional models, or even imported into GIS for deeper analysis. These results will support NRAR’s ongoing investigations.

NRAR has been working closely with CASA and the RAAF to ensure our pilots fly safely and in accordance with airspace rules.

Visit the NRAR website.

Metering roadshow for more information on metering reforms

Metering roadshows

The Water Renewal Taskforce and the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) partnered to run a metering roadshow throughout July and August 2019. The roadshow visited fourteen locations across regional NSW and delivered an online webinar. Water users were given information about the new metering rules and how to comply.

The taskforce engaged with more than 500 stakeholders during the roadshow, gaining valuable feedback. Water users have told them the key issues are the timing of the roll out and the cost to implement. The taskforce also heard about additional challenges created by the drought, as in many cases there is not enough water available to validate the accuracy of meters.

The taskforce is collating the feedback received through the roadshow and formal submissions. They will publish a ‘What We Heard’ report shortly.

The taskforce team thanks the participants who took the time to attend a face-to-face session and the online webinar.

For more information about the new metering rules, please visit the Metering page.

Raising the Wyangala Dam for regional water security

Minister Pavey at Wyangala Dam

The NSW Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey visited the Wyangala Dam on 12 August to announce a large financial commitment to the region.

The NSW Government has committed $650 million to raise the height of the Wyangala Dam. The Lachlan Valley region is vulnerable to both flood and drought, and raising the dam will improve water security and help to manage floods by storing more water. Raising the dam wall by ten meters will deliver an extra 50%  to its current capacity, from 1,218 gigalitres to 1,870 gigalitres.

The NSW Government is committed to improving the state’s resilience to future drought. New and upgraded dams are an important part of the long-term strategy to increase regional water security.

For more information on water management plans and programs, visit our website.

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Water News is our monthly update on water planning, management and reform in NSW. If you have any questions or feedback contact us at:

NSW Government – Water Relations
Phone +61 2 9338 6600