Basin-scale watering connects northern rivers in 2000km journey

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For the first time, water for the environment has flowed through a 2000-kilometre network of rivers in the northern Murray–Darling Basin, reaching the Menindee Lakes near Broken Hill.

Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) head of compliance Russell James and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH), Jody Swirepik, said the successful flow of water for the environment to the Menindee Lakes shows how the Murray–Darling Basin Plan can reconnect the northern rivers to benefit both the environment and local communities.

Ms Swirepik said the achievement was key to the future health of the Murray–Darling river system, and was a direct result of collaboration and good will between communities, water managers and all levels of government.

“From April to late June, more than 23 gigalitres of water managed by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage was ushered through the Border and Gwydir rivers to the Barwon–Darling, some of which has now reached the Menindee Lakes,” Ms Swirepik said.

“The flow provided food and habitat for the plants, fish and birds of the Barwon-Darling, which was no longer flowing downstream of Brewarrina, and brought relief to communities along the way. The part of the flow now entering Menindee will support habitat for fish in the lake system.”

The flow has also flushed blue-green algae from the rivers and allowed native fish the opportunity to travel to different areas of habitat which would provide increased water quality and food sources. Monitoring by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office is underway and may help to understand the effects on native fish when river flows stop, and how fish communities respond once rivers start flowing again.

Mr James said the MDBA worked with WaterNSW and the New South Wales Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR), to confirm that irrigators complied with the embargo initiated by the NSW Government to prohibit pumping of this important flow.

“The flow traversed more than 2000 kilometres—the equivalent of Adelaide to Brisbane—with the MDBA keeping a close eye on it to ensure the systems in place to protect water for the environment worked as intended. This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of state government, local councils and irrigator groups who supported the flow.”

“The MDBA used the latest satellite technology to track the water’s movement through the river system, and to spot any changes to farm water storage levels,” Mr James said.

“We received some great feedback from local landholders and communities to this watering event —and all agencies would like to thank them for their cooperation, including with site visits by MDBA and NSW officers to check that water meters and log books complied with requirements.

“Everybody along the length of the system needs to have confidence that water dedicated to the plant life, fish and birds of the Basin is able to flow without fear of extraction.

“We’ll be publishing our findings, along with the spatial data we have gathered, in the coming months,” Mr James said.

For more information on the review and the spatial data visit www.mdba.gov.au/basin-plan-roll-out/compliance-enforcement/our-approach/review-compliance-northern-connectivity

 

Original article published in MDBA Media Centre, 06 July 2018, (link)

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