Despite having more water in storages and wetter catchments, tough decisions are still likely for the managers of Australia’s largest river system.
- Murray-Darling Basin Authority releases its outlook for the Murray River over the coming summer period
- There is more water in the system this year compared to the same time last year
- Managing the Murray might get tight due to environmental damage in the Goulburn River
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) today released its plan for managing the Murray River this summer.
It shows water storages in the southern basin are 51 per cent full, up on last year’s 40 per cent, and the authority believes catchments to be much wetter than they were at the same time last year after good Autumn rainfall.
A large percentage of the water-filling storage however is downstream in the river system, and upper catchment dams are desperate for more rain.
“Lake Victoria [near the Victoria-South Australian border] is effectively full,” said Andrew Reynolds, executive manager of river management at the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.
Goulburn River puts pressure on whole basin
Managing the Murray will also prove difficult in summer as individual state governments put pressure on the basin authority due to high irrigation flows damaging river banks.
Victoria has placed more restriction on water leaving the Goulburn River, much of which in previous years has been sold downstream in the Murray to grow crops such as almonds, table grapes, and citrus.
That state has argued the higher summer flows have damaged river banks and is looking to limit its flow into the Murray.
This will put pressure on the MDBA to be able to deliver irrigation water in the hot periods of summer when irrigators need it for thirsty crops.
Mr Reynolds said managing the Murray River and the major rivers that flow into it is achievable, but it will be tight.
“We’ve factored in a view of what demands might emerge. That includes how we call water from both the Murrumbidgee and the Goulburn inter-valley transfer accounts,” he said.
“The planning allows for that, but it does see us running quite tight throughout the system through summer.”
Hopeful for more Darling flows
Managers are also keeping an eye on the Darling River to see if it will provide flows to the Murray this season.
A wetter-than-average spring, which the weather bureau has forecast for some areas, would provide the system with enough water to do so.
“Under the drier scenarios we would expect to not have any water available to us from Menindee to supplement flows in the Murray,” Mr Reynolds said.
“The scenarios allow for how we would call water [from the Lakes].
“We would work very closely with the NSW Government in that circumstance.”