2022-23 Murray River outlook dominated by managing wet conditions

MDBA

Full water storages coupled with a 50% chance of another La Nina in 2022-23 are driving management strategies in the River Murray System for the year ahead, according to the MDBA’s 2022-23 Annual Operating Outlook released today.

Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) Executive Director of River Management, Andrew Reynolds, said the Annual Operating Outlook explains how the river would be run based on a range of potential climatic and rainfall scenarios.

“Heading into the irrigation season, southern Basin storages are at an unusually high level for this time of year, and it’s likely that wet conditions and high flows will persist for at least the next few months,” Andrew Reynolds said.

As of 8 August 2022, Hume Dam is at 95%, Dartmouth Dam at 97%, Lake Victoria is at 62% and the Menindee Lakes are at 115% capacity. Healthy flows continue to enter the Murray from the Murrumbidgee River, the Goulburn River and the other Victorian tributaries.

“Although rainfall eased off somewhat in the past couple of months, we’re approaching what is typically the season of highest inflows, and the Bureau of Meteorology is also forecasting a 50% chance of another La Nina developing later this year,” Andrew Reynolds said.

“At Hume Dam we have been in and out of flood operations for the past 12 months and this is likely to continue into spring. As always, we’ll work closely with Bureau of Meteorology and WaterNSW, and will communicate any significant changes to communities downstream of the dam.”

The MDBA will consider whether there is a need to start accessing water from the Menindee Lakes to fulfill demand in the Murray system as the year progresses.

“The fact that we did not need to draw water from the Menindee Lakes last summer underscores how unusual this long period of wet weather and high flows has been,” Andrew Reynolds said.

“Given the high levels of water in storage, the risk of a shortfall in water delivery to entitlement holders this year is relatively low, however the risk could increase if conditions dry off and water demands ramp up quickly during a period of hot weather.

“It’s also notable that substantial amounts of water for the environment will be delivered through the system this year, including to the Barmah-Millewa Forest, unless natural flows exceed environmental targets.”

The MDBA’s river operators respond to different conditions daily and adjust their strategies as the season unfolds. Conditions are evaluated based on Bureau forecasts and advice, inflow data, predicted inflows and demands and historical records, to determine how to best manage the system.

The River Murray System Annual Operating Outlook is prepared by the MDBA with input from the New South Wales, Victorian and South Australian governments.

The Annual Operating Outlook and a summary is available online: https://www.mdba.gov.au/publications/mdba-reports/river-murray-system-annual-operating-plan

An update may be published later in 2022 and at other times if the situation changes.

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