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The next draft of the Gwydir Regional Water Strategy is open for consultation this month with submissions due by 29 June 2022.  The strategy aims to provide a forward plan for priorities and actions for the region to work towards building resilience within our communities and industries through variable conditions. 

The GVIA attended the public sessions in Inverell and Moree this week where concerns regarding the lack of infrastructure options, the need for a forward thinking and equitable policy framework and the challenges with water delivery for all water users in extended dry periods was discussed.   

A webinar will be hosted on 20 June 2022 for more information visit the Department website. 

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Gwydir High Security and General Security water users will end the water year with full accounts, as Copeton Dam remains full at 99% with accounts again topped up to the full limits. 

There remains 34.3GL surplus water in Copeton Dam even after this last announcement which can be allocated to accounts with airspace. 

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IPART NSW have finalised water prices for the 2022-23 water year, agreeing to inflation only increases.  The outcome will see a 5.1% increase and will be felt by all water users, who are encountering significant input cost rises across their businesses.  With water availability high the cost increase will come at a time with farm production is also at its peak.  However users on a one-part tariff who do not use their allocation or licence this year, will need to absorb the increase as they have less opportunity to offset the rise through increased production. 

We have updated the pricing page with the current information. 

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This month DPIEW confirmed that all stored regulated accounts are again at their maximum level, with excess water stored in Copeton Dam.  This brings the years total allocation to 413% which is an odd way of explaining that accounts have been full and spilling since December 2021, only those with airspace can receive the available water.

There is excess water available for sharing remaining in Copeton Dam when the dam is higher than 95%, the most recent resource assessment had 1,300ML surplus water available for next months allocation announcement (provided their is account airspace).

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NSW DPIEW now regularly track groundwater extractions against the long-tern annual average extraction limits allowed in water sharing plans.  This replaces the updates that we used to provide.

To report and status of groundwater regions is available from the Department's website.

Currently, extractions in the Lower Gwydir are well below limits although account water availability is high. The valley is deemed to have a medium risk to breaching limits but we see this as unlikely given the high surface water availability and low extraction to date.  To ensure the register has the most current usage information, please provide usage updates in iWas, where there is no telemetry automating your usage information.   

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Conditions are looking better in the Gwydir Valley for farmers and the environment. Natural river flows in 2020 and early 2021 started the process, with further rainfall, flows and flooding in 2021 and ongoing river flows in 2022.  This has helped improved water availability for farmers but has also encouraged the return of many water birds to the region this year, which is the most significant bird breeding event since 2012.  NSW and Commonwealth agencies have been monitoring the environmental condition of the region and have provided updates following aerial surveys in December 2021 and January 2022 with five colonies of birds breeding and four of these containing 1,000 to 2,000 nests each.
The bird breeding event, triggered from natural inflows is being supported by existing water sharing rules as well as water owned by governments for environmental purposes.  For more information on water for the environment visit our page or the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office updates. 

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DPIEW have announced the latest water availability with a 40% allocation bringing this years total to 160.4%; general security accounts have a 150% limit and the environmental contingency allowance has 200%.  All of these accounts are full, with 36,100 megalitres of surplus unallocated in Copeton Dam.

The Dam remains steady at 96% with deliveries from some stream flows occurring, dam releases equalled inflows of 215,000 megalitres with around 64,000 megalitres ordered by licence holders during the time.    

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The Natural Resources Commission is undertaking their audit and review of the Water Sharing Plan for the Gwydir Unregulated Water Sources 2012, due every 10-years. Previous reviews by the NRC have been controversial as in the 5-year review of the Barwon Darling (here) resulting in significant changes including, active management, increased commence to pump thresholds and new restrictions following drought periods called resumption of flow rules.

The key areas as guided by the NRC are:

  • Environmental outcomes: examples of how the plan rules provide for environmental outcomes.
  • Social outcomes: examples of how has having ‘a plan’ allowed for improve social outcomes for you, your region and community.
  • Economic outcomes: examples of the value of a licence, clear rules and a trading market.
GVIA will be preparing a submission which is due on 6 February 2022.  You can provide your own submission or to see more see the NRC Review.

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The NSW Government finally issued an exemption and outlined the process to apply for water users who do not have enough network connectivity (are in a black spot) to install a telemetry unit on their compliant water meter site. This exemption comes after raising this issue since 2017 and NRAR issuing letter of advice to water users who had not been able to be fully compliant because of this issue. 

There are three steps to apply for this exemption, which allow water users or duly qualified persons to identify whether a site is within network coverage and to apply using the standardised form.  Please ensure this exemption is added as an update to your file in the DQP portal so that all agencies have access. 

We are continuing to work through the remaining outstanding issues that require an exemption. 

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WaterNSW have eased Copeton Dam releases and they remain steady since 14 December, with 1,500 megalitres per day being released.

Flood warnings have ceased for the Gwydir Valley in response, with the tail of the released water expected to pass through all of the effluent creeks and streams now that flow rates are within the scope of operations of the river infrastructure.

For information on river heights, visit WaterInsights. 

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As flood waters continue to move along our river systems now reaching western communities such as Mungindi, Collarenebri and Walgett and spill operations for major storages continuing, including the recent addition of Menindee Lakes.  This flooding is occurring as the NSW Upper House report into Floodplain Harvesting[1] declared the historical practice is legal and should be measured and licenced.  

“The community rightly expect, is that whenever industry has access to water, it is only to our share, that the limits are policed and that it is very transparent, even in floods when there is water everywhere” she said.

“We agree and that is why we’ve supported the licencing of Floodplain Harvesting -  a long-standing, historical form of take that happens when rivers and our floodplains are spilling, so that all forms of take are consistently managed in our valley” she said.

“Our position was supported by the Upper House Committee report which highlighted the need for measurement of storages and our rivers to properly account for water use and licencing to ensure all limits in state and Federal legislation could be achieved and monitored”.

“These are all key elements of the reform which the majority of stakeholders agree, it is what the community expects and should be implemented state-wide” she said.

[1] https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/inquiries/2818/Report%20no.%201%20-%20Select%20Committee%20-%20Floodplain%20harvesting%20-%20December%202021.pdf

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The Gwydir Valley is currently experiencing a once in a decade event with Copeton Dam filling and spilling, along with most rivers and streams flowing naturally. 

Zara Lowien, Executive Officer of Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association who represents water users in the valley said whilst it is rare to see Copeton Dam this full and spilling, this signifies the region is at the start of the boom, of our historical boom and bust cycle here in the Gwydir Valley.

“Copeton Dam filling and our rivers constantly flowing, as they have for nearly a year now, is exactly what happens here when it finally does rain” she said.

“These conditions are a far cry from those a few years ago, when environmental water and high security deliveries were the only sources of water keeping parts of our rivers flowing, while others just didn’t flow at all” she said.

Making Every Drop Count

Securing a future for the Gwydir Valley through Irrigated Agriculture.