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END TO THE BIG DRY?

Wednesday, 10th March, 2010

* Menindee Lake was bone dry in January (pictured) but has recently received local rainfall and could be the recipient of water from the most recent Queensland floods. * Menindee Lake was bone dry in January (pictured) but has recently received local rainfall and could be the recipient of water from the most recent Queensland floods.

The recent heavy rain and record-breaking floods in Queensland has reopened the debate about filling Lake Menindee and this might convince the NSW Government to do so, according to local MP John Williams.

Mr Williams said he had a discussion last month with the NSW Minister for Water, Phillip Costa, but had been unable to convince him to let the water flow into the lake."I met with the NSW Water Minister following parliament to discuss future water releases, hoping he would reconsider releasing more water into Lake Menindee, or Cawndilla, as these two catchments received little from the allocations into the Menindee Lakes System," Mr Williams said yesterday.

"I explained that while residents within the Murray-Darling electorate were elated to see Pamamaroo and Lake Wetherall receive significant flows of water, Lake Menindee's allocation was disappointing." Mr Williams said the Minister saw the Menindee Lakes Scheme from the air when he visited here last year and that he understood the complexities of the Menindee Lakes as well as the importance of managing the water released into the Lakes Scheme.

"Unfortunately, on this occasion, the Minister for Waters said that filling Lake Menindee or Cawndilla would not go ahead due to the fact the lakes have been dry for a long period of time, meaning a large volume of the water dispersed into these two lakes would seep into the lake beds and so until 500,000 megalitres is available, there is no chance of further allocations to these storage systems."

However, Mr Williams said the recent rain across the country might re-open the debate."Following incredible rain throughout Queensland and NSW over the past few weeks, NSW may have access to further allocations of water and potentially reach that 500,000ML the NSW Officer for Water says is needed.

"While many Murray- Darling residents are desperate to see the two remaining lakes full again, it is important that in times of natural disasters such as floods, we tread carefully in respect to flood victims and the communities affected, rather than grabbing at water allocations."I will certainly be speaking to the NSW Minister for Water regarding the importance of filling Lake Menindee once the 500,000 meglitres benchmark has been reached."

NSW Wa t e r Commissioner David Harriss said yesterday that it was still too early to know how much of the water from Queensland would reach the Menindee akes."It's a bit premature," he said. It would take weeks for the flows to make their way down the river system, said Mr Harriss, who added that he may have a rough estimate in the next day or two.

"Our people are doing some work on it at the moment," he said. He also stood by his earlier statement that water would be directed into lakes Menindee and Cawndilla only when at least 500,000 megalitres was available. "There's no reason to back away from that."

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