A wet start to Autumn is bringing a smile to the faces of farmers in the Murray–Darling Basin, but there is still a long way to go before calling an end to the drought with storages still at low levels.
While earlier rain had been patchy and uneven, in the past two weeks we’ve seen widespread and persistent falls across the Basin. Areas in the south recorded the heaviest falls, particularly River Murray tributaries including the Kiewa and Goulburn Rivers.
In the latest fortnightly drought update, MDBA Executive Director of River Management,
Andrew Reynolds said Basin storages continued to reflect the dire situation of the past few years.
“This rain has been a welcome change after years of extreme drought, but for that very reason it hasn’t had the impact on storage levels you might expect.”
Overall Basin storage levels are currently at 13 per cent in the north and 33 per cent in the south, which is steady since the previous fortnightly update. Only Menindee Lakes showed a large increase; up 7 per cent to 12 per cent, with smaller gains at Blowering Dam (up 4 per cent to 45 per cent).
“The picture of the last 36 months is that virtually the entire Basin has had below-average or record-low rainfall overall so making up for that will take a lot more rain.”
Despite this, Mr Reynolds celebrated the first flows into Menindee Lakes for years, which have come on the back of heavy rainfall in the northern Basin catchments.
“Between 390 and 420 gigalitres of water is estimated to flow into the lakes over the coming weeks, and we’ve already had enough for WaterNSW to restart flows to the lower Darling. This is great news for locals and farmers who have long-awaited a reprieve from years of drought.
“It’s also great for the environment, and as these flows reconnect refuge pools along the way, we’ll see better outcomes for native fish populations and a lessening of some of the water quality issues we’ve had to date.”
The flows into the lower Darling are expected to connect with the River Murray after Easter.
The MDBA can only access the water in the Menindee Lakes for the river Murray system when volumes are high (above 640 gigalitres) and until they fall below 480 gigalitres. This means New South Wales will continue to manage the water in the lakes, as defined by the Murray–Darling Basin Agreement.
The drought update is available on the MDBA website at www.mdba.gov.au/droughtupdate