Water Week

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Record low River Murray total inflow of nearly 934 gigalitres in 2006-07 56 per cent below previous minimum

Posted by waterweek on 26 September 2007

South Australia’s Minister for the River Murray K.A. Maywald told the South Australian House of Assembly on 11 September 2007 that in 2006-07 total inflows to the River Murray were nearly 934 gigalitres, which was 56 per cent below the previous minimum inflows of 1,676 gigalitres back in 1914-15.

State significantly worse off this year: “River Murray inflows remain extremely low because of low rainfall,” said Maywald. “Inflows to the Murray system in August were only 360 gigalitres. While this is better than last year — which was only 101 gigalitres — it is still significantly below the long-term average of 1,480 gigalitres for August. At this stage, inflows are tracking about the same as the drought of 2002-03. Under that scenario, the latest forecast from the Murray-Darling Basin Commission indicates that flow to South Australia could be between 1,100 gigalitres and 1,200 gigalitres for this water year. Members will recall that the water received into South Australia in the last water year was only 1,470 gigalitres and, if those predictions are correct, we will be significantly worse off this year.”

Unregulated flows captured in Lake Victoria: “The current volume in storage in the Hume-Dartmouth dams, Lake Victoria and Menindie is just over 2,000 gigalitres, which is only 22 per cent of capacity, compared to 3,612 gigalitres last year, which was 38 per cent — and that is at the end of August,” Maywald said. “The long-term average storage for the end of August is usually 6,690 gigalitres, or 72 per cent capacity. Lake Victoria, however, is holding 83 per cent as at the end of August, as a consequence of some unregulated flows that we have been able to capture, which will be extremely useful for South Australia, coming into the hotter season and the irrigation season.”

Situation worse than last year but river will not run dry: “After inflows and storage volumes are taken into account, the current total resource position in the Murray-Darling Basin is much worse than it was at the same time last year,” Maywald confirmed. “Inflows over the next three months are critical to the River Murray system for irrigation and river health. In the run-off producing areas of the catchment in the north-east of Victoria, the chance of above average rainfall from September to November is only 40 to 45 per cent. The chance of above normal temperatures is between 55 and 60 per cent for the southern Murray-Darling Basin. Having said that, the River Murray will not run dry. We are working hard to maintain the weir pools in the coming year.”

Lake levels difficult to manage: “Lower lake levels will, however, be far more difficult to manage. We have begun the contingency planning for the next water year, 2008-09, which is especially important because, if we do not receive considerable rain in the right places to replenish resources and get some decent inflows, the situation next year could be even worse.”

Reference: Hon. K.A. Maywald, Minister for Water Security, House of Assembly, South Australia, 11 September 2007.

Erisk Net, 17/9/2007

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