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Fresh rains won’t reach Menindee

Wednesday, 6th November, 2019

Water moving across from where the Peebles cotton dam stood on Toorale Station. PICTURE: Supplied Water moving across from where the Peebles cotton dam stood on Toorale Station. PICTURE: Supplied

By Callum Marshall

A temporary pumping restriction on flows in the Barwon-Darling river system has begun but it’s expected that the water will not reach Menindee, although the biggest dam on Toorale Station has been breached.

The embargo was implemented by WaterNSW began on Monday and will remain until December 31.

Irrigators with A, B and C class licenses will not be permitted to extract any water during this time, with access restricted to critical human need only.

The temporary restriction does not apply to the take of water for farm dams.

Speaking to the BDT yesterday, WaterNSW spokesman Tony Webber explained why the measure was only temporary. 

“These are typically put in place as just interim measures to deal with circumstances, so in this instance a short-lived flow in the system on the back of the recent water event,” said Mr Webber.

“It’s not to eliminate irrigation from the area.

“Just given the circumstances the government has decided, in consultation with WaterNSW and others, to just restrict access to this water to critical human needs.

“That’s stock and domestic supply and town water supply.”

He said the section order was not an uncommon measure.

“We’ve had one apply to Mungindi last month, to users in the Bathurst area (and) we’ve seen a relaxation on trade of restricted water, which was last Friday.

“Some of those communities haven’t seen flow over the weir pool for quite some time, many weeks.

“In the case of Bourke, which received a bulk of the rain (90mm), their weir pool hasn’t flowed as it is for approximately 400 days. 

“That gives you an idea of the severity. 

“Those communities have probably borne the brunt of the drought for longer than almost any other in regional New South Wales.

Mr Webber said they were hopeful the water could replenish downstream towns but that it was unlikely to get as far down as Menindee.  

“We’re hopeful it may replenish Louth and Tilpa, that would be the ideal outcome,” he said.

“But we’re not 100 per cent on the volume and what may have happened downstream of Bourke.

“We were hoping some other flows might link up and carry that water further down the system but it’s very dry and there are limits to how far the water can go.

“From what I’ve heard it’s unlikely to get to Menindee, to the lakes.”

Yesterday the government announced that Peebles, the largest dam on what is known as Toorale National Park, where the Warrego River flows into the Darling, had finally been opened. 

Toorale Station was sold to the Commonwealth in 2008 and its dams were mean to have been removed to let the water flow down the Darling.

“This work should have been completed a decade ago,” NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said yesterday.  

“I’ve heard the community’s concerns about the time it’s taken to deliver this project and I am glad it was done in time for the rain,” said Mr Kean.

“The removal of the dam was phase one in improving the connection of flows down the Warrego River into the Darling River.

“This project will assist in ensuring water, our most precious resource, remains in the river system and is not held in unnecessary infrastructure, a legacy from Toorale’s days gone by.”

Mr Kean said the work on Peebles Dam started last month and was completed ahead of schedule.

Next year the modification of the three other dams on Toorale would further increase flows passing down the Warrego, he said. 

“Phase two will also include works to improve the ability for fish to pass by the structures still in place up and down the river.”

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