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Latest drought data not used in new water plans

Sydney Morning Herald

By Harriet Alexander and Peter Hannam

The NSW government will not take into account the latest drought in calculating how much water should be available to irrigators under draft plans condemned by regional councils and a Nationals MP.

While dams that supply some of the state’s biggest towns still hover below 20 per cent capacity, the government is poised to sign off on a water allocation system that backdates the “drought of record” gauge used as far back as 2004.

The NSW upper house passed a motion last week calling on Water Minister Melinda Pavey to amend the plans using up-to-date drought figures before submitting the water resource plans to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority for accreditation.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/latest-drought-data-not-used-in-new-water-plans-20200518-p54ty9.html

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

 

 

More questions raised about Macquarie River re-regulating storage project

Daily Liberal IRN letter 6/5/2020

Inland Rivers Network wrote to Dubbo’s Daily Liberal newspaper about a proposed re regulating weir between Narromine and Warren on the Wambuul Macquarie River. The letter was in response to a piece submitted by outgoing WaterNSW CEO David Harris published by the paper.

Far from assuring the public that environmental concerns will be addressed during the planning process, WaterNSW raised more questions than they answered.

Daily Liberal WaterNSW letter 1/5/2020

Support the campaign by signing the petition to Stop the Macquarie River re regulating weir

Lower Darling flows reach isolated NSW town of Pooncarie….

ABC Mildura, 11th April 2020

By Leonie Thorne, Cherie von Hörchner and Christopher Testa

The first flows down the Lower Darling in 18 months are fast approaching the river’s junction with the Murray, and will soon join the river end to end for the first time in more than a year.

It had brought a sense of relief to communities that were also in their second year of drought.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-11/lower-darling-flows-hit-pooncarie-first-time-in-18-months/12137306

 

NSW irrigators Peter and Jane Harris guilty of breaching water-take regulations

Two prominent New South Wales irrigators have been found guilty of illegally taking water for use on their farm near Brewarrina.

Key points:
  • Irrigators Peter and Jane Harris are found in breach of the approvals associated with the water licence for their farm
  • They will be sentenced on a date to be fixed; they have 28 days to appeal the decision
  • WaterNSW says the court action shows how serious it is about managing water resources

The NSW Land and Environment Court found that Peter and Jane Harris illegally extracted water for irrigation from the Barwon River during June 2016, contrary to a condition of their joint water use and supply approvals under the Water Management Act 2000.

www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2020-03-19/nsw-irrigators-guilty-of-water-take-regulations

The Country Hour 20/3/2020 with Dr Emma Carmody

www.abc.net.au Country Hour

Judgement:

www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/decision

 

 

Have your say: Draft Water Sharing Plan for the NSW Great Artesian Basin Groundwater Sources 2020

The NSW Government Department of Industry Water has prepared a draft replacement plan and is seeking feedback from water users and other interested parties as part of the public exhibition phase.

The Water Sharing Plan is a regulatory plan under the Water Management Act 2000, and is in effect for a 10-year period. The purpose of the NSW Great Artesian Basin Water Sharing Plan is to set the rules that determine how water is to be shared between the environment and water users.

This Plan applies to the groundwater sources of the Great Artesian Basin (GAB). These groundwater resources are referred to as the:

  • Eastern Recharge Groundwater Source,
  • Southern Recharge Groundwater Source,
  • Surat Groundwater Source,
  • Warrego Groundwater Source, and
  • Central Groundwater Source.

NSW GAB WSP 2020

Join us at one of the information sessions to learn more about:

  • the draft NSW Great Artesian Basin Water Sharing Plan 2020
  • the proposed changes to the water sharing plan arrangements
  • how to make a submission

Public information sessions 

  • 2 March 2020, Moree Services Club, Moree, 10:30 am to 12:30 pm
  • 3 March 2020, Lightning Ridge RSL, Lightning Ridge, 10:30 am to 12:30 pm
  • 4 March 2020, Diggers on the Darling, Bourke, 10:30 am to 12:30 pm
  • 5 March 2020, Coonamble Bowling Club, Coonamble, 10:30 am to 12:30 pm

RSVP 

To attend the information session, please RSVP by email to water.relations@dpi.nsw.gov.au

NSW green light to irrigators to harvest rainfall angers downstream residents

 

The New South Wales government has given the green light to irrigation farmers in the north-west of the state to harvest the recent rainfall, pleasing some but causing anger in towns such as Menindee and Wilcannia and on the lower Darling where the river has not flowed for a year.

The lifting of the embargo for three days will be welcomed particularly by cotton farmers who have lobbied the NSW water minister, Melinda Pavey, warning that unless they are able to harvest the water their infrastructure will be damaged.

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

IRN member honoured with Dubbo Day Award for volunteer efforts

Mel Gray, an Inland Rivers Network member based in Dubbo, was honoured with a Dubbo Day Award on Friday 22nd November. Mel has volunteered much of her time since she’s lived in Dubbo to improving the health of the Macquarie River and Marshes through her association with several community groups including Dubbo RiverCare, Western Paddlers NSW and Healthy Rivers Dubbo.

“Mel Gray: Mel has donated much of her time to unpaid work for various community organisations and it is a wonder she has any hours left to do her paid work. Mel is one of the driving forces behind Dubbo Bushcare, now Dubbo RiverCare Group, she has spent years working along local waterways to improve the riverine environment. Mel became a River Ambassador tasked with raising broader public awareness about the fragile nature of Macquarie River and the world heritage listed Macquarie Marshes the river feeds. She is a natural when it comes to forming partnerships with an innate understanding that there is so much to do in the environment yet so little state or federal funding and that groups and organisations need to network and work together, pooling limited resources to create a critical mass which has the power to get things done. A deserving recipient of this award”.

Short-sighted politics threatens untold damage to NSW communities

This week we saw yet another angry outburst from the Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, threatening to “walk away” from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The basin plan is a compromise. It’s not going to be enough to achieve a healthy river, particularly as climate change imposes its footprint across the basin, but it is a fundamentally important first step towards the long-term health of the rivers and the long-term viability of irrigated agriculture.

It would be a tragedy for the long-term recovery of Australia’s largest river system that supports millions of job to be thrown away for the sake of short-sighted politics. Walking away from the plan might be perceived to benefit a few irrigators but it would cause untold damage to all communities throughout the basin.

The Age Short sighted politics threatens untold damage to NSW communities