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Water wizards tell Ministers how to ensure enough Murray Darling water for critical needs in 2008-09

Posted by waterweek on 9 October 2007

The Murray-Darling Basin Dry Inflow Contingency Planning; Overview Report to First Ministers, September 2007 was a report in which the Senior Officials’ Group listed five principles to underpin measures (including the possibility of a reserve) to ensure there is enough water available to run the river and for critical needs in 2008-09.

The Senior Officials’ Group (SOG) recommended 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:

• 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;

• 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;

• 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.

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.

Carry-over water: 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 carry-over held in NSW and Victorian airspace in Murray System storages should have the same priority for delivery as NSW and Victorian carry-over. Delivery of any carry-over will depend on having sufficient water available to meet transmission losses.

Emergency conditions: “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 system defined: The ‘Murray System’ means the water resources of the southern Murray-Darling Basin which are allocated to States under the terms of the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement, and subject to the management decisions of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission.

Broadly this includes the main channel of the River Murray:

• its anabranches and effluents, the Lower Darling River downstream of Menindee Lakes (when volume in the Menindee Lakes exceeds certain triggers);

• tributaries of the River Murray upstream of Albury; and

• the four MDBC managed storages (Dartmouth and Hume Reservoirs, Lake Victoria and the Menindee Lakes).

The ‘southern Basin system’ means the Murray System as well as tributary systems such as the Murrumbidgee, the Goulburn, Ovens, Loddon and Campaspe, and their upstream storages.

Reference: Murray-Darling Basin Dry Inflow Contingency Planning; Overview Report to First Ministers, September 2007

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