Persistent wet conditions drive river operations

No go: The MDBA says it’s highly unlikely it will have to call on water from the Menindee Lakes this year due to the ongoing rain and inflows. Photo by Contributed

Ongoing wet conditions will continue to dominate river management strategies, according to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s update to the 2021-22 Annual Operating Outlook.

The Annual Operating Outlook, released by the MDBA in August every year, is reviewed and refined as peak irrigation season approaches to guide water managers and help water users in their business planning.

MDBA’s Andrew Kremor said the La Niña weather pattern was making its presence felt and would underpin management strategies for the next few months.

“It is heartening that the River Murray system in 2021-22 looks positioned to provide strong water availability well into next year,” Dr Kremor said.

“All water storages in the Murray system are at high levels, with Hume Dam effectively full and Menindee Lakes at 110 per cent capacity.

“Strong flows from the tributaries — such as the Goulburn, Kiewa and Murrumbidgee rivers — have also boosted flows in the Murray and these flows are forecast to continue.”

During the coming months, the MDBA will continue to revise forecasts and operational plans that identify the volume and timing of the MDBA’s call on water from the Menindee Lakes to support the Murray River system.

The timing will depend on when unregulated flows end in the system, including the spill from the lakes being managed by WaterNSW.

“It’s looking highly unlikely that the MDBA will need to call on water from the Menindee Lakes on behalf of basin states anytime soon, given the system is in flood, and WaterNSW forecasts an extra 2200 Gl of water is on its way from the northern basin,” Dr Kremor said.

“Given it’s been wet so far, the risk of a shortfall in water delivery to licence holders is low overall, especially compared with 2019-20, although managing the risk of short-term spikes in demand will continue to be a focus of our river operations team over summer.

“The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting wetter than average conditions to continue over summer, increasing the risk of flooding for communities and farmers near the river.

“Communities are encouraged to use the Bureau of Meteorology website for flood alerts and sign-up for their local SES information.”

The update is available at: