Water Week

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NSW, SA, Victoria towns and irrigators wait for Senior Officers October 2007 critical water plans

Posted by waterweek on 4 October 2007

On 4 October Snowy Hydro reported that the NSW Department of Water and Energy was to “review” all dam releases. This wasbelieved to result from an unpublished Octiber decision of Senior Officials’ Group (SOG).The next report was due in October 2007 and “will be focused on the volume of a reserve for 2008-09, as well as the source of water and timing of a reserve for 2008-09”.

The September Recommendations:

The Senior Officials’ Group (SOG) recommends that First Ministers:
1. NOTE that the water supply situation in the southern Basin system is critical.
2. AGREE that contingency planning should continue.
3. NOTE that, given the current water situation, there is a growing likelihood that allocations will be insufficient to avoid significant production losses across most of the Murray System in horticulture and other water dependant agricultural sectors.
4. AGREE that governments will continue to work with industry associations and stakeholder groups to ensure information is available to help producers make business decisions.
5. AGREE that water authorities continue to provide realistic assessments to water users regarding forecast allocations and salinity levels in the system over the coming months, so that irrigators and other industries can make key management decisions.
6. NOTE that unregulated flows which occur in the southern Basin system while operating under the special water sharing arrangements agreed by First Ministers on 20 June 2007, will be managed as follows:

I. Each State may use up to one third of forecast unregulated flows (as declared by the Murray-Darling Basin Commission in a ‘unregulated flow forecast determination’) to address its priority needs, including facilitation of water delivery for those purposes.

II. To the extent it is practicable, flows unable to be captured for these purposes will be directed to highest priority river recovery and environmental watering needs.

7. AGREE measures be taken in 2007-08 to ensure there is enough water available to run the river and for critical needs in 2008-09, as follows:

I. In managing issues around dry inflow planning, markets should be used to the maximum extent possible.

II. Arrangements (including the possibility of establishing a ‘collective’ reserve) should be established by the Murray-Darling Basin Commission in 2007-08 to ensure there is sufficient water in 2008-09 to enable operation of the river and delivery of agreed flows (including 696 GL dilution flow to South Australia), as well as provisions to manage projected poor water quality (particularly salinity and algal blooms).

III. To assist South Australia to store additional reserves, South Australia should be permitted to store reserves in NSW and Victorian airspace in Murray System storages. (It is noted that South Australia is able to access some or all of the volume needed to meet critical requirements from volumes provided for dilution and loss purposes.) To assist the ACT, storage arrangements may need to be negotiated with NSW and Snowy Hydro Ltd.

IV. Operational decisions on the measures to be adopted, including the source, volume and timing of establishing a collective reserve should be made by the Murray-Darling Basin Commission in September 2007, taking into account SOG recommendations.

V. Jurisdictions are encouraged to allow water to be carried over from 2007-08 to 2008-09, which would be available in storages from the beginning of the 2008-09 water year. South Australian carryover held in NSW and Victorian airspace in Murray System storages should have the same priority for delivery as NSW and Victorian carryover. Delivery of any carry-over will depend on having sufficient water available to meet transmission losses.

8. AGREE that contingency measures, initially agreed by First Ministers in response to the December 2006 Contingency Planning Report and implemented during 2007, should if necessary be implemented in a low water availability situation 2008-09. Further water sharing principles may be necessary to ensure critical water needs in each state in 2008-09, and will be proposed as required.

Murray-Darling Basin Dry Inflow Contingency Planning Overview Report to First Ministers September 2007. This is the third Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) Dry Inflow Overview Report to the Prime Minister, the Premiers of New South Wales (NSW), Victoria and South Australia, and the Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The first and second Overview Reports and the June 2007 update on MDB inflows are available on the Department of the Environment and Water Resources’ web site (www.environment.gov.au).

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