Water sharing rules provide for win win
Recent localised rainfall in the Gwydir Valley means the region is fortunate enough to have generated local unregulated inflows below Copeton Dam. The flow rate and volume means localised flooding will occur and moderate and minor flood warnings have been issued in some section of the river by the Bureau of Meterology,
These natural inflows come at a time when general security users are on just 5% allocation and Copeton Dam is at 13% (see our page Current Water Availability) . General security users were receiving their allocation in bulk delivery to reduce losses, this started in early December and has provided connectivity in most sections of the Gwydir Regulated River.
Conditions are not the same as those that prompted the need for restrictions in late 2019 and early 2020, when the water sharing plan rule book was ignored.
We have had river connectivity throughout our valley and there was full connectivity of the Barwon to the Murray earlier this year under the First Flush approach. There is also a reserve for drought contingency in Menindee Lakes and Lower Darling water users have a 30% general security allocation.
There are isolated sections of our own river system on the lower Mehi and Moomin for example and downstream in the Barwon Darling, that have ceased to flow more recently. Until today, there have not been any inflows other than bulk deliveries from headwater storages.
We fully support the importance of connectivity of our rivers and the requirements for critical water needs.
There is a transparent framework to share flows, meet these requirements and balance these needs already within our water sharing plan, which has been in place since 2004.
Our water sharing plan has supplementary flows rules which set a clear process when flows naturally occur to ensure connectivity in our rivers and water for our internationally recognised wetlands but that also provide sharing to benefit our community, it’s people and it’s economy. An initial announcement has been made via WaterNSW.
We estimate these rules are likely to reserve at least 20,000 megalitres as environmental water for social, cultural and environmental benefits. Given the limited ability to manage such peaky flows and the forecast for more rain, this volume could be larger.
The remaining residual water which has not be reserved as planned environmental water, can be shared amongst water holders providing an opportunity to boost the regions recovery from our three-year drought and COVID. Water holders including those using water for irrigation and environmental water managers. For a breakdown on holdings see our Environmental Water and Management.
Sharing of flows for irrigation, do not make the rivers stop. The rules will still provide connectivity and water for key environmental sites. Flow conditions will dictate where these benefits occurs.
These flows provide a clear opportunity to demonstrate these long-standing rules in action, which provide a clear process to balance human, environmental and economic needs within our valley and downstream.