Small water releases to start this week from Menindee Lakes

On behalf of Basin state governments, the Murray–Darling Basin Authority will begin releasing a small amount of water from Menindee Lakes later this week in response to recent dry conditions across the southern Basin.

MDBA Executive Director of River Management, Andrew Reynolds, said the Authority had consulted with the local community in partnership with WaterNSW, and was taking on board feedback around the best way to release the water, without impacting landholders and residents. A peak of around 3,500 megalitres per day will be targeted over the next three weeks.

“We’re keeping the daily releases from Menindee relatively small to ensure roads and private river crossings remain open for local landholders and the community,” Andrew Reynolds said.

“WaterNSW estimates that between 800 and 1,000 gigalitres will enter the lakes, so the 20 to 30 gigalitres we will be releasing over a three-week period, represents 4 percent of the total volume expected to arrive.”

The lakes are currently 45 per cent full, holding more than 770 gigalitres and rising, with storages increasing by 17,000 megalitres every day on average over the past week.

“As the most significant volume of water to enter the lakes in five years, it’s critical that we draw on this water carefully and maximise the benefits to everyone with a stake in this resource,” Andrew Reynolds said.

“The releases will start slowly to mimic natural river systems, providing connectivity between the Darling and Murray systems – something that would have occurred to a much larger extent if the water wasn’t captured in the Menindee Lakes.

“How we use this water on behalf of Basin state governments, will continue to be shaped by community feedback, while meeting the requirements of the state governments in accordance with the rules of the Murray–Darling Basin Agreement. The lakes continue to be actively managed by WaterNSW.”

The volume of water in the Menindee Lakes surpassed 640 gigalitres on 7 May, triggering water sharing arrangements agreed between New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia in the Murray–Darling Basin Agreement. At that point the MDBA can access water in the lakes on behalf of Basin states until the lakes drop back to 480 gigalitres.

“We don’t expect to release significant volumes from the Menindee Lakes until spring or summer and will continue to evaluate conditions as they unfold. If we have a dry winter that might change with rising demand for water.”

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