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We are tracking the social and economic effects of the Basin Plan.

8 January 2016

This week's report on the River Murray is a bumper edition taking a look at conditions in 2015, the month of December, and the last two weeks to 6 January 2016. 

We've summarised some of the main points below.

You can see the full report for much more including rainfall and temperatures for specific areas, evaporation figures for December, notes on operations across the system, and a graph comparing monthly inflows over time.

How the river rolled in 2015

Rainfall during 2015 was below average to very much below average across most of Victoria, average across much of NSW and average to below average in Queensland and much of south eastern South Australia (see map). A few small scattered areas around NSW and South Australia recorded above average rainfall. Notably, rainfall in the upper Murray catchment was average to below average. More info in the Bureau of Meteorology’s (BoM) annual climate statement 2015.

2015 was Australia’s fifth warmest year on record, with the annual national mean temperature 0.83⁰C above average. Annual mean temperatures were above to very-much-above average across the Basin.

River Murray system inflows for 2015 (excluding Snowy, Darling, IVT and environmental inflows) were around 3,100 gigalitres (GL). This is around two-thirds of the 4,500 GL recorded in 2014 and one-third of the long-term average of 9,100 GL. In comparison with the historical record since 1891, only about 10 per cent of years have recorded lower inflows than 2015.

Rainfall deciles 2015
Murray–Darling Basin rainfall deciles for 2015 (Source Bureau of Meteorology)

A look back at the month of December

Average rainfall was recorded across much of the Basin during December 2015, however the notable exceptions were South Australia, western Victoria and southwestern, south eastern and central northern New South Wales where rainfall was below to very-much-below average. Across the Basin as a whole, BoM has reported that area-averaged rainfall for December was 34.9 millimetres. This total was 28 per cent below the long-term mean and it was the 47th driest December observed during the past 116 years of record.

Temperatures during December 2015 were above average across much of the Basin. In particular, record warm December minimum and maximum temperatures were recorded in parts of eastern South Australia, western Victoria and southern New South Wales. Associated with this was a heatwave that affected much of south eastern Australia in the third week of December. One of the more extreme aspects of this event was the very high overnight temperatures which occurred on the night of 19-20 December when temperatures didn’t fall below 30⁰C over parts of northern Victoria and western New South Wales. At Mildura, the minimum temperature on 20 December was 31.9⁰C – a new record for the highest overnight minimum in Victoria. More details on December heat in BoM's special climate statement.

River Murray system inflows for December (excluding Snowy, Darling, IVT and environmental inflows) continued to decrease. The monthly total of around 115 GL is similar to the 120 GL recorded in December 2009. It's also the lowest for December since 2006 (that had inflows of around 60 GL) and around one-quarter of the long-term average for the month. In comparison with the historical record since 1891, only about 10 per cent of previous Decembers have recorded lower inflows than December 2015.

The two weeks to 6 January 2016

Rainfall was widespread across much of the Murray–Darling Basin during these two weeks.

Streamflow responses in the upper Murray tributaries were variable though generally fairly modest, however the continuing wet weather is generally resulting in river levels falling more slowly.

In the northern Basin, rainfall has resulted in relatively modest responses in some of the headwater tributaries of the Darling River. Without further significant rainfall, these are not expected to contribute any significant inflows to the upper Darling River or effect Broken Hill’s water supply.

BoM has also advised the 2015-16 El Niño is likely past its peak, with climate models monitored by the Bureau suggesting it will decline during the coming months.

The Bureau’s ENSO wrap-up reports that tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures suggest this event was one of the top three strongest El Niño events of the past 50 years. They also report that, based on the 26 El Niño events since 1900, around 50 per cent have been followed by a neutral year, while 40 per cent have been followed by La Niña (increased likelihood of wetter conditions).

The climate models also currently suggest neutral and La Niña conditions are equally likely for the second half of 2016, with a repeat El Niño the least likely outcome.

It is important to note however, that with upper-Murray storage levels likely to be low at the end of this water year, significant rain over winter and spring 2016 is required to refill these storages. Similarly, with Menindee Lakes close to empty, inflows are dependent on rainfall over the remaining months of the northern monsoon.

MDBA total storage decreased by 192 GL over the past two weeks, with the active storage currently 3,433 GL (41 per cent capacity).

A reminder you can see the full report for much more including rainfall and temperatures for specific areas, evaporation figures for December, notes on operations across the system, and a graph comparing monthly inflows over time.

You can also access live river data and flow and salinity reports and forecasts on our website.

 

 


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5 February 2016

Welcome to our report on river operations in the Murray for the river week ending 3 February 2016.

In this weekly report, our river operators have also done a summary of River Murray conditions in January 2016 (see separate post).

Rainfall and Inflows

Humid and stormy weather persisted over the Murray-Darling Basin this week as a low pressure system tracked slowly in from the west before stalling over the region. Widespread thunderstorms developed with this system, bringing intense rainfall and significant weekly rain totals for many locations. Late in the week, there was further heavy rainfall through parts of South Australia as the remnants of Tropical Cyclone Stan crossed through from the north-west (see below map).

Although stream flows remain relatively low along the upper Murray tributaries, increasing catchment moisture from the rain during the last two weeks has boosted flow responses from the most recent rain. The most notable increases were upstream of Dartmouth Dam, where some tributaries reached their highest flow rates since November last year. For example, on the Mitta Mitta River at Hinnomunjie bridge, the flow increased from 200 megalitres per day to a peak of 1,400 megalitres per day. It was a similar story on tributaries upstream of Hume Dam, where the Murray at Biggara increased from 300 to 1,200 megalitres per day. Downstream on the Kiewa River, the flow at Mongans bridge increased from 200 to a peak of about 1,300 megalitres per day.

Rainfall map for the week with colour coded references.
Murray-Darling Basin rainfall week ending 3rd February 2016 (Source: Bureau of Meteorology).

See the full weekly report for figures.

Total in storage

MDBA total storage decreased by 38 gigalitres this week, with the active storage now at 3,159 gigalitres (37 per cent capacity).

River operations

At Dartmouth Reservoir, the storage volume decreased by 30 gigalitres to 1,783 gigalitres (46 per cent capacity). The release from Dartmouth, measured at Colemans, continues to recede and is currently close to 5,400 megalitres day and is forecast to drop to around 4,500 megalitres per day by the end of the coming week.

This week’s rainfall increased the storage at Hume Reservoir by one gigalitre to 1,129 gigalitres (38 per cent capacity). Releases, measured at Doctors Point, have varied between 9,500 megalitres per day and 14,600 megalitres per day this week and are likely to increase if downstream irrigation demands increase as expected.

Rainfall across northern Victoria and the NSW Riverina led to reduced irrigation demands from Lake Mulwala. Diversions to Yarrawonga Main Channel were around 600 megalitres per day before falling to 400 megalitres per day. Diversions to Mulwala Canal fell from 2,200 megalitres per day to 1,820 megalitres per day with approximately 1,200 megalitres per day of this water bypassing the Barmah Choke for use further downstream.

Releases from Yarrawonga Weir reduced from close to 10,000 megalitres per day to around 9,600 megalitres per day to introduce some variability to the release rate. Over the coming week the release is expected to increase to around 9,800 megalitres per day.

In the Edward-Wakool system, the Gulpa offtake continued to average near 500 megalitres per day. These higher flows have been due to environmental water targeting a bird breeding event in the Reed Beds wetland of Millewa Forest. This event is now coming to a close, and as such flows are anticipated to reduce to a more typical flow rate of around 350 megalitres per day over the coming week.

The Edward offtake has continued to be close to 1,550 megalitres per day and this is expected to persist over the coming week in order to meet downstream demands. Diversions to Wakool Main Canal have fallen to around 110 megalitres per day. On the Edward River, the release from Stevens Weir remains close to the channel capacity of 2,700 megalitres per day.

Rice’s Weir on the Broken Creek has risen to just above 400 megalitres per day. At McCoys Bridge on the Goulburn River recent rainfall resulted in a peak 1,050 megalitres per day. The flow is forecast to gradually drop back towards 700 megalitres per day.

Rainfall across northern Victoria resulted in lower irrigation demands from Torrumbarry Weir, with diversions to National Channel reduced from 2,400 megalitres per day to around 1,900 megalitres per day. Reduced demands have increased the flow downstream of Torrumbarry to around 7,200 megalitres per day and the flow is forecast to remain above 7,000 megalitres per day for the coming week.

On the Murrumbidgee at Balranald the flow has increased to near 1,900 megalitres per day and is expected to rise to around 2,000 megalitres per day in the coming week. This flow is well above the January end of system target minimum of 180 megalitres per day due to the delivery of inter valley trade into the Murray system.

Rainfall along the mid-Murray resulted in both reduced evaporation and irrigation demands which, when combined with increasing flows from the Murrumbidgee, resulted in the Murray at Euston increasing to 9,850 megalitres per day. The flow is expected to remain close to 10,000 megalitres per day over the coming days.

Boat operators are reminded that Lock 15 at Euston will be closed for approximately 16 weeks to enable refurbishment of the lock chamber. Further information can be found on the Water NSW website.

The storage volume at Menindee Lakes decreased by two gigalitres to 62 gigalitres (four per cent capacity). A red alert warning for blue green algae at several sites at Menindee Lakes and along the lower Darling is still current.

Releases from Weir 32 were effectively ceased by Water NSW in December 2015. On the lower Darling Burtundy has not received flow since April 2015. A series of block banks have been installed in order to retain sufficient water for local requirements. These block banks will remain in place until reliable flows return to the lower Darling River.

Downstream at the junction of the Darling and the Murray, the weir pool at Wentworth remains above Full Supply Level (FSL) to assist water users on the lower Darling arm of the weir pool.

The weir pool at Lock 9 remains around 10 centimetres below FSL, while Lock 8 continues to be 80 centimetres below FSL and Lock 7 50 centimetres below FSL. These changes are part of an on-going weir pool variability trial aimed at achieving a more natural wetting and drying cycle for the riverine environment.

This week the storage volume at Lake Victoria fell by eight gigalitres to a total storage volume of 441 gigalitres (65 per cent capacity). The flow to South Australia has averaged near 7,600 megalitres per day and will remain close to this level for the month of February as environmental water is delivered downstream to support Lower Lake levels and maintain releases through the barrage fishways into the Coorong.

The five-day average at the Lower Lakes fell one centimetre to 0.57 metres Australian Height Datum (AHD) before higher inflows and welcome rain over the region helped to increase the five-day average level to 0.59 metres AHD.

For more information and maps, graphs and data, read the full River Murray operations report.


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5 February 2016

In the first weekly report of each month, our river operators look back at the month that came before so here's our rundown on the River Murray in January 2016.

Looking for detailed rainfall, inflows, storage and operations for the river week ending 3 February 2016? Have a read of our weekly report.

Our look back

This is an excerpt from our weekly report of river operations on the Murray for the river week ending 3 February 2016.

January 2016 saw wetter conditions than historically observed for this time of year across the majority of the Basin (see map below). Of particular note is the ‘Very Much Above Average’ rainfall across parts of the Goulburn, upper Murray, upper Murrumbidgee and Macquarie catchments with a small patch of ‘Highest on Record’ rainfall within parts of the upper Murray catchment.

A may of the Murray-Darling system with coloures zones of rainfall ranges.
Murray Darling Basin rainfall deciles for January 2016 (Source: Bureau of Meteorology).

This relatively wet January follows on from generally below average rainfall in December 2015 and hot and dry conditions more generally during spring 2015. Given the dry underlying nature of the catchments there was very little flow response from the January rains. Monthly inflows to the Murray sytsem for January (excluding Snowy Scheme, Darling River, Inter Valley Trade and managed environmental inflows) fell to about 90 gigalitres which is close to one third of the long-term January average.

The Bureau of Meteorology reported above average mean temperatures throughout most of Victoria and western, south-western and southern NSW. Apart from a small patch of ‘below average’ temperatures in northern NSW, the remainder of the Basin experienced near average mean temperatures for the month of January.

Estimated evaporative losses from MDBA storages for January 2016 are listed in the below table. Rainfall over Dartmouth Dam resulted in a small gain (negative net evaporation), while at Hume Dam local rainfall helped to lower evaporative losses.

The evaporation is calculated by multiplying the surface area of the storage by the net evaporation. Net evaporation is derived by subtracting the rainfall recorded at the storage from the measured evaporation.

Monthly evaporation figures for MDBA storages

Storage

Approximate (net) evaporative loss in January 2016 (GL)**

Average storage volume in January 2016 (GL)

Percentage Evaporative Loss Jan 16

Dartmouth

-0.4

1880

-0.02

Hume

8.2

1150

0.7

Lake Victoria

16

470

3.4

Menindee Lakes

6.3

63

10

**Evaporative loss from storage = surface area of the storage x net evaporation. Net evaporation = measured evaporation (using a ‘pan’ instrument) - rainfall.

Find out more about our role as manager of the River Murray system on behalf of basin governments. Or you can also visit our live river data and see our many #riverops updates on facebook and twitter.


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18 September 2015

In June 2015, the Australian Senate set up a select committee to look at the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.

Senators are considering the social, economic and environmental effects of the Basin Plan and associated Commonwealth programs and will report in March 2016.

The committee will also look into:

You can find information on the committee's terms of reference, its membership, its submissions, and public hearings on the Parliament House website.

This page records the evidence we have provided, starting with the most recent, and logging the date of each submission.

Evidence from the MDBA

Supplementary submission to the select committee tabled in our second hearing – 5 February 2016

Responses to questions on notice covering a range of topics, download the PDF – 3 February 2016.

Response to question on notice about northern basin modelling, download the PDF. We provided further information as part of answers to questions on notice directed to the federal department of environment. Those answers are available on the select committee’s webpage 2 October 2015

Full transcript of the first hearing including verbal evidence from the MDBA, the Commonwealth environmental water holder, and the federal departments of environment and agriculture - 25 September 2015

The MDBA's submission to the select committee and read our summary – 25 September 2015

Our opening statement tabled at the first hearing of the select committee on the Murray–Darling Basin Plan – 18 September 2015

Who does what in Murray–Darling Basin water reforms (PDF): our explainer of roles and responsibilities, updated (PDF) to reflect a change in federal department roles – 18 September 2015


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3 February 2016

A huge welcome to our 11 graduates who have started with us this week.

Over 430 young people from all sorts of backgrounds applied to be part of our 2016 graduate program and this crew is the result of months of sifting through applications, interviews and online and real-life testing and practical exercises.

So why did they apply for the MDBA grad program?            

“Let me count the whys,” said one of our grads from NSW.

“I’m paranoid about climate change. I want to contribute to a sustainable future for Australian communities. Murray River pink salt is delicious. It’s one of the top ranking grad programs in the country. And every single practice area sounded amazing.”

Many of the grads said they are with us because they’re interested in water and environment issues, wanted to make a difference, and want to work with communities and industries.

11 younger people in their 20's taking a selfie photo together.
Induction day for our 11 graduates in the MDBA 2016 graduate program (Friday, 29 January 2015).

Our grads have studied enviro science, engineering and law. They also come to us from all over Australia, with home states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and of course the ACT.

In the next 11 months, our grads will work in three different sections of the MDBA. This group will start out in environmental watering, groundwater, hydrology and modelling, river operations and various corporate areas such as engagement and legal.

Most will spend time in the basin, meeting people and seeing the Murray—Darling system up close. They’ll also do loads of training, meet lots of other grads from right across government and learn a lot about how government works.

One grad told us they’d been “warmly welcomed”. We hope that was more than the tea. But, in all seriousness, this is our way of saying welcome on board guys.

We’re stoked to have you here and keen to work with you. Ours is a truly fascinating topic area and we thrive on sharing it.


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2 February 2016

What tickles a fish’s fancy when it comes to the best conditions for breeding, setting up home and making it to old age?

This has been the topic of a major fish study in the northern Murray–Darling Basin.

For the first time ever more than 1100km of the Barwon-Darling rivers has been mapped between Walgett and Wilcannia, looking closely at river bank shape and depth, vegetation and river snags.

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) Dr Peta Derham said the time of year, the volume and the rate of river flows made a big difference to whether fish could breed, how they moved around the rivers and wetlands, and where they chose to hang out.

"Flows in these northern rivers are highly variable and not all fish like the same things," Dr Derham said.

The study also identified which species prefer particular parts of a river system.

"Some native fish need deeper, faster flowing water to breed, while others prefer to lay their eggs on vegetation in the calmer waters of a wetland.

"This study is helping us to better understand which types of fish are where in the northern basin and the different types of river flows they need for breeding, habitat and completing their life cycle."

Dr Derham said this study, and others currently underway, will feed into decisions on water extraction limits in some northern basin catchments. These decisions will take into account the socio-economic effects on communities while still supporting native fish, plant and animal species.

Commissioned by the MDBA as part of our Northern Basin Review, the fish study was done by Fisheries NSW with support from others.

Looking over the shoulder of a man in a small boat at high river section.
MDBA staff travelling with Fisheries NSW to map fish habitat on the Barwon-Darling River as part of the Northern Basin Review. The photo was taken from within a weir pool upstream of Louth in April 2015 where the Warrego enters the Darling. Photo courtesy of MDBA.

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2 February 2016

Wetlands play a crucial role in supporting the overall health of the Basin.

More than a billion people worldwide make a living from wetlands. Industries such as fishing, rice farming, travel, tourism and water provision are all dependent on wetlands.

Many of these industries are key to the economy of the Murray–Darling Basin, which is why the health of our wetlands is so important.

Recognised globally on 2 February each year, World Wetlands Day marks the date the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (or Ramsar Convention) was adopted.

Banrock Station Wetland Complex, located along the River Murray in South Australia
Banrock Station Wetland Complex, located along the River Murray in South Australia. Photo by Denise Fowler.

The intergovernmental treaty, agreed in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971, provides a framework to protect and conserve wetlands across the world.

In a bid to protect the worldwide loss of wetlands, the Ramsar Convention encourages member countries to nominate representative, rare or unique sites, or sites of importance in conserving biological diversity, to be added to the List of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar List).

Australia was one of the first member countries and, in 1974, designated the world’s first Ramsar site — Cobourg Peninsula in the Northern Territory.

Wetlands help to regulate the health of all life that rely on them. Some of the key threats to wetlands are over-extraction of water, invasive species, floodplain development and climate change.

Australia has a total of 65 Ramsar sites, covering more than 8.3 million ha. These sites comprise an impressive mosaic of diverse freshwater and marine wetlands, both permanent and ephemeral, in every climatic zone.

There are protected sites across all states and territories in Australia, as well as several external territories such as Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Christmas Island, the Coral Sea Islands and the Ashmore and Cartier Islands.

Within the Basin, there are 16 Ramsar sites covering more than 500,000 ha — 5 of these are designated icon sites under our The Living Murray program.

Others include the Lowbidgee Floodplain (including Great Cumbung Swamp), Currawinya Lakes, Paroo River Wetlands, Narran Lakes, Gwydir Wetlands and the Macquarie Marshes.

Read more about the Basin’s wetlands on our website. More information about Australia’s Ramsar sites is available on the Department of the Environment’s website.

 


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29 January 2016

Welcome to our report on river operations in the Murray for the river week ending 27 January 2016.

Rainfall and Inflows

Rain was widespread across the Murray-Darling Basin this week as humid, unstable conditions prevailed. Thunderstorms were a common occurrence, with severe storms, intense rain and hail reported in many areas. Further rain is expected during the coming days.

There was little change to stream flows along the upper Murray tributaries despite the rain and storms over the catchments. On the upper Murray, the flow at Biggara increased from 300 megalitres per day to a peak of 450 megalitres per day before receding again. Downstream at Jingellic, flows fell away as the week progressed due to decreasing releases from Snowy Hydro. The current flow is just under 2,000 megalitres per day. On the Ovens River, flows remained fairly steady. The flow at Wangaratta averaged slightly more than the previous week at about 250 megalitres per day.

See the full weekly report for a rainfall map and figures.

Total in storage

MDBA total storage decreased by 50 gigalitres this week, with the active storage now at 3,199 gigalitres (38 per cent capacity).

River operations

At Dartmouth Reservoir, the storage volume fell by 44 gigalitres to 1,813 gigalitres (47 per cent capacity). The release from Dartmouth, measured at Colemans, has been lowered from 6,840 megalitres per day down to a current release of 6,260 megalitres per day. Assuming dry conditions, the release is forecast to gradually decrease to around 4,000 megalitres per day in the coming weeks. For more information, see the Mitta Mitta flow update.

At Hume Reservoir, the storage volume reduced by one gigalitre to 1,128 gigalitres (38 per cent capacity). With the widespread rainfall in irrigation districts over the week, releases from Hume, measured at Doctors Point, were decreased from 15,200 megalitres per day to 11,500 megalitres per day as local demand from Lake Mulwala decreased.

The level in Lake Mulwala was increased from 124.75 metres Australian Height Datum (AHD) to above 124.80 metres AHD to assist recreational activities on the lake over the Australia Day period. A localised thunderstorm then resulted in the level rising to 124.89 metres AHD. Over the coming week the lake should fall back below 124.80 metres AHD.

Rainfall in the irrigation districts led to diversions to Yarrawonga Main Channel falling from around 940 megalitres per day to around 650 megalitres per day. Similarly, diversions to Mulwala Canal have dropped from close to 2,900 megalitres per day to 2,150 megalitres per day, with close to 1,400 megalitres per day of this water used to bypass the Barmah Choke via the Edward and Perricoota Escapes.

Releases from Yarrawonga Weir have averaged 10,000 megalitres per day but are forecast to fall to 9,600 megalitres per day early next week.

A landscape of dry grass and a stream running through, with the sign post saying Mulwala Canal.
Mulwala Canal near Deniliquin. Photo courtesy of Tom Zouch (MDBA).

The Edward Offtake and Gulpa Offtake continue to pass just over 1,550 megalitres per day and around 500 megalitres per day, respectively. The continued high flows down the Gulpa Creek are thanks to environmental water being delivered for a bird breeding event in the Reed Beds of Millewa Forest (see below photo). These rates are expected to continue throughout the coming week.

Diversions to the Wakool Main Canal have dropped to 170 megalitres per day. Downstream of Steven’s Weir on the Edward River remains close to channel capacity and has averaged 2,650 megalitres per day this week.

A wetland with brown and green grasses with a pool of water across it.
Environmental water being used to support a bird breeding event in Millewa Forest. Photo courtesy of Tom Zouch (MDBA).

Rice’s Weir on the Broken Creek has averaged 320 megalitres per day this week. On the Goulburn River the flow at McCoys Bridge has increased slightly to over 600 megalitres per day and is expected to rise further to around 700 megalitres per day in the coming week to accommodate Inter Valley Trade (IVT) delivery.

Downstream at Torrumbarry Weir diversions to National Channel remain steady at 2,400 megalitres per day. Flow downstream of the weir remains close to 6,100 megalitres per day and is forecast to continue at this rate over the upcoming week.

At Balranald on the Murrumbidgee River flows have averaged 1,300 megalitres per day and are anticipated to gradually rise towards 1,500 megalitres per day. The bulk of this water is IVT water being delivered to the Murray system.

Rainfall along the mid-Murray resulted in a drop in irrigation diversions. As a result, the flow at Euston peaked at 9,500 megalitres per day before receding to 9,170 megalitres per day. Without additional rainfall the flow is expected to recede towards 8,000 megalitres per day throughout the week as demands increase again.

Boat operators are reminded that Lock 15 at Euston will be closed for approximately the next 16 weeks to enable refurbishment of the lock chamber. The lock will be closed to boat traffic throughout the duration of these works. Further information can be found on the Water NSW website.

On the Darling River, total storage at Menindee Lakes fell by one gigalitre to a storage volume of 63 gigalitres (four per cent capacity), with releases (measured at Weir 32) having effectively ceased on 15 December. Water users in this region are reminded that a red alert warning for blue green algae at several sites at Menindee Lakes and along the lower Darling is still current. Updates about blue-green algae blooms and Red Alert areas can be obtained from the Regional Algal Coordinating Committee freecall Algal Information Hotline on 1800 999 457 or visit www.water.nsw.gov.au.

There has been no flow at Burtundy on the lower Darling since April 2015. The weir pool at Wentworth—at the confluence of the Murray and Darling Rivers—continues to be maintained at about 10 centimetres above Full Supply Level (FSL) to assist water users on the lower Darling arm of the weir pool.

At Lock 9, the weir pool is currently targeting about 10 cm below FSL, with the Lock 8 weir pool currently around 80 cm below FSL and the weir pool at Lock 7 currently around 50 cm below FSL. These changes are part of an on-going weir pool variability trial to introduce variations in weir pool levels to achieve a more natural wetting and drying cycle for the riverine environment.

The storage volume at Lake Victoria fell this week by five gigalitres to 452 gigalitres (67 per cent capacity). The average flow to South Australia remains around 7,200 megalitres per day, and is expected to increase to around 7,800 megalitres per day next week due to the provision of additional environmental water aimed at supporting Lower Lake levels and maintaining releases through the barrage fishways into the Coorong.

The five-day average at the Lower Lakes has fallen by one centimetre and is now 0.58 m AHD.

For more information and maps, graphs and data, read the full River Murray operations report.


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28 January 2016

Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) disciplines are among the most critical in the success of the Australian workforce into the 21st century.

Unfortunately, Australian students are falling significantly behind the rest of the world in terms of engagement and interest in STEM industries.

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) is a national program, supported by the Chief Scientist of Australia, encouraging students with a passion for science, technology, engineering and maths to consider a career in these fields.

During the NYSF, students moving into year 12 can opt to participate in a 12-day residential program to explore the many STEM career options available to them.

Led by our Education team, the MDBA hosted 60 NYSF students throughout January to engage these bright minds and encourage them to follow the STEM path into water management.

The program allows students to explore the important work we do and to ask questions about the kinds of careers open to STEM graduates at the MDBA.

As part of this year's program, students participated in a series of speed-networking sessions, giving them a unique opportunity to ask our staff about the variety of work they undertake for the MDBA.

To help understand the importance of sustainable water management, students were then placed in debate teams to discuss the ‘triple bottom line’— managing water to optimise outcomes for the community, the economy and the environment.

To introduce the debate, MDBA experts gave short presentations about the value of water for each of these purposes and then assisted the students in researching their dedicated topic.

Students realised all three aspects are intrinsically connected and were able to see the importance of the ‘triple bottom line’ approach in managing these priorities holistically.

Finally, our Education and Aboriginal Partnerships teams spoke with the entire NYSF cohort at the Australian National University about the range of STEM fields involved in water management, and the importance of applying Aboriginal knowledge of water management alongside science.

With growing demand for STEM graduates in Australia’s workforce, it’s increasingly important we encourage students to take up studies in STEM subjects at school.

By appealing to their inner-innovator, we can encourage the next generation to explore these skills and ultimately change Australia’s future for the better.

Our first round of visiting students prepare for the ‘triple bottom line’ debate. Photo by MDBAs Education team.

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22 January 2016

Considerable time and effort goes into planning water management in the Basin and, while no‑one can predict the future, we can apply expert knowledge and undertake ‘what-if’ scenarios to develop and implement more robust water management policy.

For more than 4 decades, hydrological modelling has been used in the Murray–Darling Basin to inform many of the decisions made about managing the Basin’s water.

Modelling is based on the use of historical climate data collected for up to 120 years, from 1895 to the present day, including the federation and millennium droughts and very wet periods during the 1950s and 1970s.

This data helps us to study how river system would respond for alternative water management arrangements under a range of climatic conditions in the Basin that have been experienced in the past and the potential impacts of climate change in future.

Computer-based hydrological models can simulate the flow and behaviour of water along a river system by taking into account:

  • the movement of water through the river channel and associated floodplains, wetlands and anabranches
  • losses and gains as water moves through the landscape
  • managing the storage, supply and use of water for various purposes.

We recently linked 24 river system models across the Basin in the development of the Basin Plan.

While we are responsible for managing a model covering the River Murray and Lower Darling systems, the other 23 models are managed by the Basin states and Snowy Hydro Limited.

A diagram of the 24 river models linked in developing the Basin Plan.

To provide confidence in model predictions, they are calibrated and tested to see whether they can reproduce historical behaviour for as long a period as possible. For calibration of models, observed historical data — rainfall, temperature, evaporation and stream flow diversions, river operation and water sharing rules, floodplain and wetland landscapes, and works constructed in the system — are considered.

Once the scene is set, mathematical calculations are made to simulate the behaviour of a river system under those conditions over a specified period of time.

They can provide detailed information on river flows, dam levels, losses and water consumption for each scenario. Statistics can then be used to compare different scenarios and inform policy development.

Hydrological modelling has been used for development and implementation of most of the policy initiatives in the Basin including water sharing arrangements, the cap on diversions, Basin Plan, the Basin salinity management strategy and The Living Murray program.

In recent years, we’ve been working in collaboration with our partners to support the development of a national hydrological modelling platform, called Source. Read more on how we’re integrating this platform into our modelling of the River Murray system.

We value transparency in our work. Reports about the modelling used to inform the Basin Plan, the environmentally sustainable level of take for surface water and operational constraints in the southern connected system are available on our website.


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Our vision

To achieve a healthy working Basin through the integrated management of water resources for the long-term benefit of the Australian community.

About us

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority is an independent expertise-based statutory agency. We are responsible for Basin-wide water resource planning and management.

Learn more about us

Basin Plan

The Basin Plan guides governments, regional authorities and communities to sustainably manage and use the waters of the Basin.

Learn more about the Basin Plan

Latest news

A may of the Murray-Darling system with coloures zones of rainfall ranges.

In the first weekly report of each month, our river operators look back at the month that came before so here's our rundown o

Rainfall map for the week with colour coded references.

Welcome to our report on river operations in the Murray for the river week ending 3 February 2016.

11 younger people in their 20's taking a selfie photo together.

A huge welcome to our 11 graduates who have started with us this week.

Wetlands play a crucial role in supporting the overall health of the Basin.

Looking over the shoulder of a man in a small boat at high river section.

What tickles a fish’s fancy when it comes to the best conditions for breeding, setting up home and making it to old age?

A wetland with brown and green grasses with a pool of water across it.

Welcome to our report on river operations in the Murray for the river week ending 27 January 2016.