No drought-proofing from new dams

Media release

12 May 2020

No drought-proofing from new dams

National Party plans to build new dams and expand others will enrich irrigators, degrade river ecosystems and will not protect communities from climate change and drought unless the government changes Water Sharing Plans to reflect our drying climate, environment groups have warned.

“The projects the Nationals outlined today will not provide more water security and drought-proof communities,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Chris Gambian said.

“Bigger dams will just mean more water for irrigation and less for the river and other users.”

Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Water Minister Melinda Pavey announced this week that $245m would be spent building the business case for three dam projects:

  •        raising Wyangala Dam on the Lachlan River
  •        building the Dungowan Dam on the Peel River
  •        building a dam on the Mole River near Tenterfield

The Nationals claim the dams will store water that can sustain communities during dry spells,[1] but water allocations from dams in these river systems will not be based on the most recent drought.[2]

“Time and again, the Nationals have shown their water policy is to provide maximum water to the irrigation industry,” Mr Gambian said.

“This is reflected in the new Water Sharing Plans, due to commence on 1 July, 2020. Bigger dams will mean more water taken from our river systems, not more water stored for drought protection.”

Inland Rivers Network President Bev Smiles said: “The new Water Sharing Plans do not use the most recent drought of record and were bound to over-estimate the volume of water available for irrigation.

“For the Lachlan River, the lowest inflows on record are based on those before July 2004. The Millenium Drought and the current more severe drought are being ignored.”

This issue was confirmed by Water Minister Pavey in Parliament last November where she said:

To include a rule that automatically requires the water supply system to adjust to new record drought would potentially result in significant quantities of water being locked away from productive use.” [3]

 

“The new Water Sharing Plans will cause the same problems to arise with each new drought,” Ms Smiles said.

“In 2016, all NSW dams were full. By the end of 2018 they were empty because all the water had been handed out, not stored for drought protection.

“This is what will happen again with these new projects if we don’t change the Water Sharing Plans to reflect the scarcity of water in our drying climate.

“The Water Sharing Plans need to be changed so the most recent drought is considered when making annual water allocations.

“We don’t need more, bigger dams. We need water sharing rules that provide water security for severe drought conditions.”

MEDIA CONTACT: James Tremain | 0419 272 254

 BACKGROUND TO WATER SHARING PLAN RULES

 Wyangala Dam

Water Sharing Plan for the Lachlan Regulated River Water Source 2020

Part 10 System Operation Requirements

Division 4 General System Operations Rules

58 Maintenance of water supply

(1) In this clause, the period of lowest accumulated inflows to the water source is identified by flow information held by the Department prior to 1 July 2004.

(2) The operator must operate the water supply system in such a way that water would be able to be supplied during a repeat of the period of lowest accumulated inflows to the water source,

 Dungowan Dam

Water Sharing Plan for the Peel Regulated River Water Source 2020

Part 10 System Operation Requirements

Division 2 General System Operations Rules

52 Maintenance of water supply

(1) In this clause, the period of lowest accumulated inflows to the water source is identified by flow information held by the Department prior to 1 July 2010.

(2) The operator must operate the water supply system in such a way that water would be able to be supplied during a repeat of the period of lowest accumulated inflows to the water source

Mole River Dam

Water Sharing Plan for the NSW Border Rivers Regulated River Water Source 2020

Part 10 System Operation Requirements

Division 3 General System Operations Rules

57 Maintenance of water supply

(1) In this clause, the period of lowest accumulated inflows to the water source is identified by flow information held by the Department prior to 1 July 2009.

(2) The operator must operate the water supply system in such a way that water would be able to be supplied during a repeat of the period of lowest accumulated inflows to the water source

[1] Media Release Deputy Premier and Water Minister, 10 May 2020, STAGE 1 BEGINS ON STATE SIGNIFICANT DAMS

[2] See attached briefer: Water Sharing Plan rules are not based on the most recent lowest inflows on record

[3] https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/Hansard/Pages/HansardFull.aspx#/DateDisplay/HANSARD-1820781676-80754/HANSARD-1820781676-80801

 

 

NSW Government opens the floodgates for irrigators to profit

Conservation groups are outraged at the NSW Government’s decision to allow big irrigators to take millions of litres of flood water from the Barwon-Darling river system.

The government on Monday (February 10) temporarily overturned a restriction it placed on the capture of floodwaters just three days before on Friday (February 7).

The move could divert millions of litres of water from towns and the environment into the storages of large irrigators in the north of the basin.

“After such a prolonged drought, the priority for these vital first flows through the Barwon-Darling system must be to replenish town water supplies and revive fish stock and river ecosystems,”

Nature Conservation Council CEO Chris Gambian said. “Over-extraction by big irrigators, aided and abetted by the NSW Government, has made the impact of this drought much worse than it should have been. The drought is not yet over, and the government is at it again.

“The NSW Government’s management of the recent flows has been chaotic and poorly communicated, with three contradictory directions issued over the past week.

“On Friday, it simultaneously imposed a restriction on floodplain harvesting in the northern basin while also authorising landholders use of illegal levies and dams to capture and store overland flows. Then on Monday it announced a three-day free-for-all allowing irrigators to take as much water from the floodplain as they can pump.

“Once again the government appears to be pandering to the interests of big irrigators ahead of communities and the environment.”

Inland Rivers Network spokesperson Bev Smiles said: “These flows are the first ray of hope for the Darling River for years and should be allowed to flow through the system to Menindee Lakes and the Lower Darling.

“They are an important opportunity to reverse the extreme stress suffered by the Darling River and its dependent communities and wildlife.

“Now the government has authorised irrigators to harvest the best part of the flows in Namoi, Gwydir and Barwon rivers. The ad hoc approach to water management in western NSW has caused significant trauma to people, native fish and the riverine environment along the Darling River.

“This opportunity to revive the river system has been squandered at the behest of the powerful upstream irrigation lobby.”

MEDIA CONTACT: James Tremain, 0419 272 254

200212-MR – NSW Government opens the floodgates for irrigators to profit

The Murray Darling Basin has no Plan B!

There is no Plan B: NSW must stay the course and save the Murray-Darling Basin Plan

Premier Gladys Berejiklian should take the water portfolio from the Nationals and recommit to implementing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on time and in full.

“The NSW Nationals have proven time and again they are unable to manage water for NSW,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said. 

“By their reckless actions and mismanagement, as revealed by ABC’s Four Corners, the Nationals are jeopardising the ecological health of our river systems, the livelihoods of river communities, and decades of complex planning and negotiation.

180215 – Murray Darling has no plan B