Tuesday, 8th January, 2008
Water was released downstream from the Menindee lakes for the first time in months yesterday to help replenish the parched Lower-Darling River. The drought has been particularly severe in this part of NSW and downstream water releases from the lakes have been stopped a number of times to prevent the lakes from drying up, according to the Department of Water and Energy. The water release gates were closed was in October, but good pre-Christmas rain in the upper Barwon-Darling catchment generated enough water to secure Broken Hill's water supply for at least 18 months, said the department's Acting Deputy Director-General, Rob O'Neill.
It would also provide a 100 per cent allocation to high security and stock and domestic users, and put more water in the Menindee lakes, he said. "This means we now have enough water to re-start releases downstream of the lakes, which will greatly benefit the community and environment along this stretch of the river." Mr O'Neill said that an initial release of 500 megalitres of water was to occur yesterday, with the volume increased over the coming days until the maximum release rate of 5,000 megalitres per day was reached.
"This rate will be maintained for four days and then reduced over 10 days to the minimum rate required to maintain flows over Burtundy Weir. Under this pattern, about 55 gigalitres of water will be released from the Menindee lakes by the end of January and about 70 gigalitres by the end of March, Mr O'Neill said.
"The flow peak in the Barwon-Darling River is now near Brewarrina and whilst we expect flows into the lakes to continue for the next six weeks, these downstream releases can only be maintained until March unless there is further rain in the catchment." Mr O'Neill said details of the management of flows within the Menindee lakes system will be provided when inflows can be estimated more accurately, but that a high priority is to flood the wetlands in Lake Wetherell as soon as possible. Landholders requiring further details of expected river heights may contact the Menindee Office of State Water on 8091 4401.