Let it flow
Wednesday, 6th January, 2016
By Andrew Robertson
Water should be allowed to reach Menindee Lakes: growers
Desperate Lower Darling growers have called on the government to ban northern irrigators from accessing flows that enter the river system as a result of rainfall in NSW and Queensland.
Rachel Strachan from Tulney Point Station said yesterday flows destined for the Barwon-Darling should be allowed to reach Menindee Lakes to extend Broken Hill’s supply and provide water for permanent plantings.
Cotton growers in the state’s north were denied over 60,000 megalitres of water over four flow events last year when pumping embargoes were introduced by Water Minister Niall Blair.
The temporary pumping bans - which were to flows originating in the Border Rivers, Gwydir and Barwon-Darling systems - extended Broken Hill’s water supply by eight months.
Ms Stachan, who is a member of the Lower Darling Horticulture Group, which represents stone fruit, citrus, wine and table grape growers on the Lower Darling, said it was time to bring the embargoes back.
She and others have been relying on releases from the Menindee Lakes to water their plantings but the flows ceased last month and Ms Strachan said all that remained now were natural and shallow pools created by block banks.
“We are running out of water for our stock and our high value permanent plantings and the declining water quality is already causing significant crop damage.
“Replenishing the river and providing water for stock and domestic use and for permanent plantings has to be the highest priority for the government.”
Ms Strachan said ideally the flows would provide enough water to meet everyone’s needs but “where there isn’t enough” the health of the river, along with town water supply, stock and domestic and high security irrigation entitlements, must take priority over annual crops like cotton.
“While losing an annual crop isn’t good, losing trees and vines that have taken years of development is devastating and will have a huge impact on the local communities and regional economy.
“We need at least 100 Gigalitres to get us through this irrigation season and much more to provide the drought reserve that was intended under the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement.
“We are asking the NSW Minister responsible for water, Niall Blair, to make sure that flows in the northern NSW rivers that pass into the Barwon-Darling can flow through to the Menindee Lakes and are protected from diversion until the immediate needs of the river and higher priority uses is guaranteed.”
A spokesman for the Department of Primary Industries said yesterday the recent rainfall and flooding in Queensland would have “no beneficial effect” on improving water supply to Broken Hill.
Flows from the event would instead go into the Eyre Basin, he said.
“Rainfall in northern NSW in recent days has produced little response from rivers due to the dry conditions.
“Significant flows are not expected in the Barwon-Darling system and none will reach Menindee from the recent weather systems.”
The DPI said the government had instituted a range of measures to secure Broken Hill’s town water supply should low flows continue.
It said the commissioning of the reverse osmosis facility and other short term measures would ensure Broken Hill’s supply until at least 2019.
“Building on these short term measures, DPI Water has released a shortlist of project options to secure a long term water supply for Broken Hill and surrounding communities,” the spokesman said.
“These long term water projects are part of the NSW Government’s $500 million investment package to secure Broken Hill’s water supply.”