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Big lake back to former glory

Tuesday, 30th March, 2010

* Water in Lake Menindee filling from Lake Pamamaroo. Photo courtesy of Barry Philp, NSW State Water.  * Water in Lake Menindee filling from Lake Pamamaroo. Photo courtesy of Barry Philp, NSW State Water.

It's a sight to gladden the heart of any drought-weary resident.

This spectacular aerial picture shows just how much floodwater has already flowed into Lake Menindee - and how much more is needed before the vast lake fills. Yesterday the lake was holding just over 90 billion litres (gigalitres), according to the NSW Office of Water's website, or just over five per cent of its capacity.

Billions of litres more are still making their way down the system of rivers that feed into the Barwon-Darling, which is expected to fill the Menindee Lakes system to surcharge capacity by early or mid May. In its latest flood flow update, the Office of Water said the current flood, and the floods in the Barwon-Darling at Christmas-New Year, were providing the best flows since 2000.

In the process they have improved water available, and the security of supply, for all users including towns, stock and domestic supplies and irrigation. "The floods have also provided enormous environmental benefits throughout the Barwon-Darling River system, with water passing into anabranches, flood runners and billabongs, many of which have not had water for 10 years," the Office of Water said.

The Bureau of Meteorology expects a peak at Bourke around April 10, with flows to take another two or three weeks to travel to Menindee Lakes. But there is still some uncertainty as to how much some rivers, including the Warrego and Paroo, will contribute to flows in the Darling.

According to the Office of Water, about 70 per cent of the Warrego floodwaters have spread west into the Paroo catchment and are slowly migrating southward. "A large proportion of the original volume of NSW Warrego River floodwater will be consumed by natural environmental processes such as river losses." It is expected that Menindee Lakes will reach 640GL storage level in about mid April, when control of the water reverts to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

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