Latest News

Upholding water laws, because the government will not!

Media Release

14 November 2017

 Community group takes legal action to enforce water laws because the Coalition government has not

The Inland Rivers Network is taking legal action to force Peter Harris, a big irrigator in the state’s northwest and a Nationals Party donor, to return more than five billion litres of water he took, allegedly illegally, from the Barwon-Darling River. [1]

“It should not fall to community groups to enforce our water laws, but the Berejiklian’s government’s inaction has left the Inland Rivers Network no option,” said Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski.

Full Details at the EDO NSW website: IRN v Harris and Another

Tallywalka Creek in far west NSW flows for first time in a decade, as floodwaters trickle down

ABC Broken Hill / By Bill Ormonde 8 March 2022

For the first time in more than 10 years, a creek stretching 100km across far west New South Wales is full of water.
Key points:
  • The 100km-long Tallywalka Creek has been dry for more than 10 years
  • Floodwaters from heavy rain in northern NSW and south east Qld last year have made their way into the system, causing the creek to flow again
  • Locals are rejoicing but would like to see more water on the floodplains along the lower Darling

Read Article Here

Image Emma Hollows and Beverly Smiles – 2011

Calls for Dungowan Dam Business Case to be Released

Inland Rivers Network President Beverley Smiles talks to Patrick Bell on ABC New England Monday 28th February 2022.

Questions about the cost of Dungowan dam are being asked by the community – how much will the Dungowan dam cost? Estimates are that it could be as much as $1 billion. That’s very expensive water!

Dams cause a lot of damage to rivers – Inland Rivers Network believes there are a lot better options for supplying long term urban water security for inland cities and towns such as purified recycled water, storm water capture and rain water tanks on every building in town.

The community needs to know – what alternatives have been costed, what cost benefit analysis has been done and what will happen to the price of water for Tamworth residents?

If the Government has nothing to hide, they will release the business case.

Media Release: Wealthy irrigators to be gifted water taken from downstream communities

MEDIA RELEASE
Wednesday 23 February 2022

Inland Rivers Network condemns new Water Minister Kevin Anderson and the NSW Government for moving closer to granting valuable floodplain harvesting licences, starting with the Gwydir and Border River Valleys, without any regard to the viability of downstream communities and river health.


The issuing of floodplain harvesting licences should be held off until a rigorous environmental, cultural and social assessment of downstream impacts is undertaken and fully understood.

Spokesperson for Inland Rivers Network, Brian Stevens:
‘NSW is one step closer to legalising floodplain harvesting without conducting any comprehensive assessment of the impacts of this water capture. Floodplain water flows should provide water for the Barwon-Darling/Baaka River, for wetland systems, for Aboriginal cultural values and for groundwater recharge.’


‘Downstream communities are being sacrificed by the NSW Government in favour of their wealthy irrigator supporters who have had free unlicensed access to floodplain flows for over 30 years. They are now to be gifted large water entitlements worth many millions of dollars.’


‘Inland Rivers Network agrees that regulation of floodplain water extraction is long overdue, but the NSW Government is planning to issue licences for a large volume of floodplain harvesting based mainly on information provided by the irrigators themselves. Without a comprehensive assessment of downstream impacts, this regulatory process is locking in the ongoing degradation of the NSW Northern Basin rivers and communities.’


‘The call for rigorous impact assessment of floodplain works and flood extraction has been loud and clear across many stakeholder groups in the Murray-Darling Basin but the NSW Government chooses to ignore a fair and just approach to water management in the state.’

Contact: Brian Stevens 0429 903 082

Download the Media Release here:

Bureaucrats assessing Dungowan Dam must follow the law

Published in the Northern Daily Leader – Tamworth

1st January 2022

Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, seems to be blaming bureaucrats in NSW for delaying the Dungowan Dam (NDL 19 December 2021). He maintains that politicians have said that Dungowan Dam is going to happen and that ‘government is run by the people represented by politicians.’

Has Mr Joyce forgotten that elected governments make laws and bureaucrats are paid to implement those laws?

Large impactful infrastructure, like dams on rivers, must be assessed under state and federal law. In NSW there is the Environment Planning and Assessment Act, Water Management Act, Fisheries Management Act, Biodiversity Conservation Act and at the Commonwealth level there is the Water Act, Murray-Darling Basin Plan, Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act – to name a few.

In early 2022, construction of the new pipeline between Dungowan village and Calala water treatment works will commence. This is the ‘shovels in the ground’ project that will help to save water and improve Tamworth water security. The process to assess a new dam on the already stressed Peel River must be conducted carefully and consider the many adverse impacts. Meanwhile, less expensive, more sustainable alternatives must be considered to give the best value for public investment.

It is time that the proposed Dungowan Dam stopped being used as a political football during a federal election campaign.

Inland Rivers Network president Bev Smiles

Earth First | Raising Wyangala Dam wall will not solve all problems

Bev Smiles

December 13 2021

A larger Wyangala Dam cannot solve all problems and will create many new ones.

Inland Rivers Network continues to question the rationale behind spending up to $2 billion dollars of public money on raising the Wyangala Dam Wall when the purpose of the proposal is unclear.

With the current floods in the Lachlan Valley there are conflicting calls for this proposal to provide both increased water security and improved flood mitigation.

These competing roles require different dam management and water sharing arrangements. Increased water security requires a full dam while improved flood mitigation requires lower levels.

The recent high rainfall events in the upper Lachlan catchment from August to November have demonstrated that the proposed larger dam would not have prevented the floods at Forbes.

Analysis of inflows to Wyangala Dam since it first filled in August, based on real time inflow reporting on the WaterNSW website, shows that the proposed larger Wyangala Dam would have filled and spilled in early October.

Also, analysis of inflows to the Lachlan River from tributaries below the dam showed that Wyangala Dam releases from a larger dam would still have occurred at the same time the increased tributary inflows from the Belubula River, Boorowa River and other swollen water sources below the dam entered the Lachlan River upstream of Forbes.

The proposed increased capture of 650 billion litres of water would not have solved impacts of flooding at Forbes and downstream during these highly unpredictable large rainfall events.

Inland Rivers Network looks forward to the release of the next stage of the draft Lachlan Regional Water Strategy that will consider the impact of climate change on the region and prioritise a range of water security options.

The NSW Government has announced that alternative water security options will be considered in the final business case for a larger Wyangala Dam.

This is a welcome step in the assessment process for this very large and impactful proposal.

While the recent floods have been disruptive and damaging to settlements and crops on the floodplain, the rainfall has been recuperative for the natural environmental following the recent intensive drought conditions.

Depleted soil profiles and groundwater sources have been replenished.

Native fish have good breeding conditions and the best waterbird breeding since 2016 is occurring in the Lachlan wetlands.

The Listening to the Lachlan Conference in Forbes in February will discuss many of these issues.

Inland Rivers Network president Bev Smiles

https://www.cowraguardian.com.au/story/7548227/earth-first-a-larger-dam-will-not-fix-all-problems-in-the-lachlan/

Floodplain harvesting report shines a light on policy flaws

Media Release – 15th December 2021

Inland Rivers Network welcomes the release of the NSW Parliament Select Committee’s report into floodplain harvesting, which recognises the need for the NSW Government to take a lot more care in the way they propose to licence floodplain harvesting.

Floodplain harvesting is the capture of rainwater flowing overland and water overflowing from flooding rivers. This water take is not licenced or monitored. The volume of water taken has increased dramatically, since the Cap on licenced extractions commenced in 1993/1994, as have the on-farm storage volumes. Floodplain harvesting is one of the main reasons for the demise of the wetlands and the Darling Baaka River.

“We have been calling for the government to work out what the impact of decades of unchecked floodplain harvesting has been on downstream environments and communities before they issue licences, and we are pleased to see the Committee calls for that assessment to be done.” Said Brian Stevens, Secretary of Inland Rivers Network.

The report recommends that the way the Government has calculated new diversion limits for each valley be clearly explained, and they show that each new limit represents an environmentally sustainable level of water take.

“Right now there is a huge risk that the government will issue licences for far too much water, ensuring the environmental collapse of the rivers of the Northern Basin.” Said Mr Stevens.

The report makes several recommendations about illegal and unapproved floodplain works, recommending that all illegal works be removed within six months.

“Floodplain harvesting licences should not be issued to illegal and unapproved works – that should go without saying, but that’s exactly what the Government is planning to do. In the Macquarie Valley for example there are a huge number of unauthorised floodplain works that could be given floodplain harvesting licences worth millions.” Said Mr Stevens  

Inland Rivers Network calls on the NSW Government to implement all twenty-five recommendations of the report, as it is critically important that there is accurate metering and monitoring of floodplain harvesting in place before licences are handed out. Mr Stevens also called for end of system flow regulations to be introduced for each of the northern valleys, to ensure water flows in the Barwon-Darling-Baaka River.

Media Contact:  

Brian Stevens, Secretary of Inland Rivers Network – 0429 903 082

Media Release – NSW pillages groundwater reserves

Inland Rivers Network is aghast at moves by the NSW Government to issue brand new access licences for groundwater throughout the state, when current access is mismanaged.

The NSW State Water Strategy, released last August, promised that the Government will develop and implement a NSW Groundwater Strategy and Action Plan to improve groundwater management across NSW. This must be done as soon as possible, and before more access licences for groundwater sources are issued.

Groundwater is too often subject to contamination and over extraction. Issuing brand new entitlements is stealing from the future, instead of fixing the problems we face now. A collapsed aquifer is water storage lost forever.

Severe droughts experienced since the turn of the millennium have seen dependence on groundwater increase sharply, leading to significant drawdown of some groundwater reserves.

“When the rivers start running low the response is to turn to groundwater, rather than deal with the huge problem of over-allocation and water mismanagement.

We need to look at ways we can take less water from the environment, like water recycling and more efficient irrigation,” said Bev Smiles, President of Inland Rivers Network.

Most groundwater bores aren’t required to have meters, and the rollout of compulsory metering for large bores is more of a stroll out. Even though the measurement of groundwater use is woefully inaccurate, significant levels of water theft are still detectable.

Extraction from groundwater sources in the Macquarie and Murrumbidgee valleys was found to be more than 20% over the legal limits in the 2018/2019 year, yet the excessive take was excused by the Murray Darling Basin Authority. [1]

One-tenth of groundwater users were found to be taking more groundwater than their licence allows in a pilot program run by the Natural Resources Access Regulator this year and the largest fine NRAR can issue is a paltry $1,500.

“If we have legal limits, they should mean something. The law must be applied, and the penalties for stealing water should be high enough to be a deterrent.” said Ms Smiles.

 “Groundwater is not a magic pudding we can turn to after we’ve sucked our rivers dry. We can always print more money but we can’t print water.”

Media Contact:

Beverly Smiles, President of Inland Rivers Network – 0428 817 282


[1] Reference MDBA audit

AGM Notice

The Annual General Meeting of the Inland Rivers Network will be held as a Zoom meeting on Friday 5th November 2021, beginning at 1 pm. Business will include the election of Committee members and the presentation of annual reports.  The AGM will be followed by a monthly committee meeting.

For a copy of the zoom details, contact

Secretary – Brian (Barney) Stevens barney.stevens@westnet.com.au

President – Bev Smiles inlandriversnetwork@gmail.com

Inland Fish Finally get passage funding

Media Release
9th September 2021


Inland Rivers Network is pleased to see that the final IPART determination released today has allocated funding to build long promised fishways in inland rivers.


Since 2009 WaterNSW have had a legal obligation to build eleven fishways in Inland NSW Rivers to offset the impacts to native fish of several dam upgrade projects.


Obstruction to fish passage in NSW Rivers has played a major role in native fish numbers plummeting by 90% in the last one hundred years. Addressing fish passage is a very important undertaking if this decline in population is to be slowed and turned around.


Yet the critically important fishway projects have been delayed at every hurdle, with WaterNSW citing concern over the costs. Even when the funding was raised from their customers several years ago, the money was spent on other projects.


Now, after twelve years of delays, Inland Rivers Network is very pleased to see detailed and cost efficient plans for the construction of seven of the projects in the next few years. Detailed plans for the remaining four projects will continue to be developed.


“Native Fish have strong instincts to migrate to complete their life cycles. Many obstacles have been built in rivers that stop fish movements to feeding and breeding sites. It’s very important that the problem is fixed,” said Bev Smiles, President of Inland Rivers Network.


There has been significant public money invested in planning for these fishways. Cost efficiency assessments for the fishway implementation strategy was completed back in 2018.


“We are very pleased to finally see detailed timelines and budgets for each project presented by WaterNSW. Significant work has happened behind the scenes planning these projects and it is none too soon for our threatened native fish,” said Ms Smiles.

Media Contacts:
Beverly Smiles, President of Inland Rivers Network – 0428 817 282
Melissa Gray, Vice President of Inland Rivers Network – 0431 471 310

Final Report – Review of Water NSW’s rural bulk water prices – September 2021