River operators keep close watch as River Murray system runs at capacity

The River Murray will continue to flow at maximum capacity over summer to meet demand for water through the system, according to the Murray–Darling Basin Authority’s latest outlook.

The Updated Annual Operating Outlook details how the MDBA can run the River Murray most efficiently in response to conditions across a range of possible climate and rainfall scenarios. This helps water users and river managers with future planning.

MDBA Executive Director of River Management, Andrew Reynolds, said the full range of scenarios from extremely dry to very wet had been considered, and the risk of shortfall was evident. A shortfall occurs when water cannot be delivered to users when and where it is needed.

“This year’s annual operating outlook was first published in July 2020. We have updated the outlook based on system conditions in late spring as typically we have received most of the year’s inflow by then and have a clearer picture of the season ahead,” Mr Reynolds said.

“The movement of water in the river system is now being finely balanced and there is an increased risk of a shortfall should there be a sudden spike in usage in parts of the river where water is not readily available.

“With the forecast of wetter weather due to La Nina, we’re hopeful conditions will change from a moderate to a wetter outlook for the coming months, which would help lower the shortfall risk as more of the demand for water is met by local rainfall.

“While we hope for good rain, the MDBA plans for a range of conditions-nobody knows for sure what the weather will bring. If conditions revert to a drier scenario, we need to be ready for it, so we continue to operate the system as effectively and efficiently as possible.

“This year the Outlook considers the shortfall risk to be greatest in late summer because the higher demand for water resulting from improved water availability is tempered by capacity limitations of the Barmah Choke and the limit to delivery from the Goulburn Inter-Valley Trade account. In addition, the Menindee Lakes remain too low to contribute to meeting demands in the Murray River at the moment.

The MDBA has implemented a process to monitor and report on system shortfall risks to the state governments every fortnight. If or when the risk of a system shortfall under current operations becomes too high, steps to implement additional measures to reduce the risk and prevent a system shortfall will be taken where possible.

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

The updated 2020-2021 Annual Outlook is available on the MDBA website.

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