Water eNews September 2019

Water news


Drought update

Drought update

New South Wales has experienced another very dry winter and spring forecasts show that dry and hot conditions are likely to continue. To preserve remaining supplies for critical needs, we’re placing additional restrictions on water delivery in some northern regulated rivers.

The latest changes are:

  • water delivery has ceased below Warren Weir in the Macquarie River
  • over the next few months, water delivery will be reduced in the Peel River below Dungowan, and the Border Rivers system below Goondiwindi.

There is more positive news in the south, with enough rainfall to provide a 6% general security allocation in the Murrumbidgee.

For more information on the help available and alternative water supplies for those affected, refer to our Drought Information section on the Drought Update page.

Based on feedback from recent community information sessions, we’ve updated our website to include information on the priority of general security carryover water and the process for reducing groundwater allocations.

We are planning more drought information sessions for 2019. Dates will be posted on our Information Sessions page, when confirmed.

Funding for emergency drought initiatives

The NSW Government is investing $50 million in water initiatives to help drought-affected communities in the New England region.

During a recent visit to Tamworth, Minister for Water Melinda Pavey outlined that the funding package will include:

  • $39 million towards assuring long-term water security for Tamworth
  • $3.5 million towards options analysis to secure water for the Upper Namoi
  • $1.5 million for water planning and infrastructure for Walcha.

Minister Pavey also acknowledged that the people in Tamworth have been doing it particularly tough during this drought, and that the Tamworth Regional Council is likely to go to level 5 restrictions soon.

NRAR releases its first progress report

Controlled activity

The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) has released a performance report detailing its first year of operations and its regulatory priorities for the next two years.

The progress report details NRAR’s achievements and actions including:

  • receiving over 5,500 hotline enquiries—an average of 15 a day
  • finalising over 800 investigations into alleged breaches of water law
  • maintaining a caseload of nearly 600 active cases
  • conducting more than 320 property inspections.

From a staff of 69 in April 2018, NRAR has now grown to a team of 146 staff dedicated to protecting water resources in NSW.

To read the full progress report for 2018–19, visit NRAR’s How we're doing page.

Program focused on the wellbeing of rural and remote communities

Rural Adversity Mental Health Program

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment is working with the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health to support rural communities and raise awareness about the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP).

The Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health is a statewide organisation dedicated to improving the mental health, wellbeing and resilience of rural and remote residents. RAMHP is the centre’s flagship program, and uses local coordinators to connect individuals to mental health support services and resources. The program also offers training to teach mental health and wellbeing skills to communities and workplaces.

If you or someone you know needs a helping hand, you can find details of your local RAMHP coordinator from the contacts pages of the program.

Independent panel for constraints review announced

Independent expert panel

The NSW and Victorian governments have appointed an independent expert panel to review the Murray–Darling Basin Authority's (MDBA's) modelling of the effects of higher environmental flows in the southern-connected Basin.

The review is in response to community concerns about the effects of the proposed higher flows on riparian land, business and local infrastructure. It will also consider the likely environmental benefits of these overbank flows, and the way authorities will manage the operational risks of delivering water at the targeted rates.

The panel will assess if the MDBA’s existing modelling is sufficient to show that higher flows can be delivered in real time, to assess and manage risks, and ensure the environmental benefits are clear.

Read the media release

Water delivery for the parched Koondrook and Perricoota state forests

Environmental water for Koondrook and Perricoota state forests

Planned environmental water will benefit up to 4,500 hectares of river red gum forest, woodlands, fringing creeks, wetland and other habitat in the Koondrook and Perricoota state forests. Initially released in late August, the flows will continue for up to 60 days.

This is the first planned environmental watering event in the Koondrook and Perricoota forests since 2014, and is critical to replenish wetlands, creeks and waterholes. The water has been carried over from last year, and includes water returning to the river from upstream forests as part of the coordinated Murray River southern spring flow.

The flows have been timed to use cold water to avoid a hypoxic black water event. They will help flush carbon from the forest floor to reduce the chance of fish deaths caused by hypoxic black water in future floods. The flows will also help provide important nutrients to native fish in Thule Creek and the Wakool River.

This project is being led by Forestry Corporation of NSW in partnership with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment as part of The Living Murray (TLM) program. The NSW Government acknowledges the input of WaterNSW, Department of Primary Industries – Fisheries and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and the generosity of neighbouring landowners whose support has made the project possible.

Read more on environmental water

Local water utilities performance data available online

LWU performance monitoring data

The department’s Water Utilities team has launched an online dashboard that monitors the performance of local water utilities across regional NSW.

The dashboard provides an interactive way to compare the performance of local water utilities across criteria including complaint rates, number of connected properties, typical residential bill amounts and more.

Future additions to the dashboard will include more comparison data on key performance indicators, data from previous reporting periods and the option to download the information.

You can access the dashboard on our website.

Send feedback on the dashboard

Tracking native fish to help manage water for the environment

Murray cod

The department is working on a project in the Gwydir and Mehi rivers to assess how native fish respond to increases in flow. The project uses acoustic tags and receivers to track the movement of 103 eel-tailed catfish and Murray cod across the lower Gwydir and upper Mehi rivers.

The results so far suggest that both the Murray cod and eel-tailed catfish in these rivers have small home ranges most of the time. However, when river flows increase during substantial rainfall events or when water is released for the environment, the fish move around more, sometimes up to 20 or 30 kilometres at a time. In January 2017, one Murray cod travelled the length of the acoustic array before continuing out of range.

The ability of fish to move freely in our waterways is critical to ensuring they have access to food, habitat, and opportunities to breed. The project’s results will help us to manage water for the environment more effectively. It is funded in collaboration with NSW Department of Primary Industries – Fisheries, the NSW Recreational Fishing Trust, and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office.

Read more about our work on aquatic ecology

NSW exhibits final water resource plans for public comment

Water resource plans

In September, the NSW Government released the Draft Namoi Surface Water Resource Plan and the Draft Barwon-Darling Watercourse Water Resource Plan for public comment. These are the final two water resource plans that NSW is required to produce under the Basin Plan 2012.

We have also released a response to the Vertessy Report and the Natural Resources Commission’s review of the Barwon-Darling Water Sharing Plan. This document gives more detail on how we plan to manage water within the Barwon-Darling, including ways to better manage water for the environment and protect water for towns.

Read the response

Improving the management of held environmental water

The NSW Government has proposed changes to the water sharing plans for the Gwydir, Macquarie Bogan, and Barwon–Darling unregulated water sources.

The proposed changes will amend access rules to protect water held for the environment instream. The current water sharing plan rules don’t protect environmental water held instream from extraction in unregulated rivers, and the policy would change this.

We have also proposed a new policy of active management for environmental water. This policy will provide certainty that held environmental water is used for its intended purpose, and will improve environmental outcomes in the NSW northern Murray-Darling Basin.

Comments are welcome on the proposed water sharing rules and the draft Active Management in Unregulated Rivers policy, which is open for public consultation. Submissions must be received by 5 pm on 29 October 2019.hat-we-do/stakeholder-engagement

For more information, visit our Stakeholder engagement page

Have your say: on public exhibition

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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