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Highlights in this update

  • The volume of water in storages is on par with 12 months ago

  • La Niña predicted to end after 3 consecutive wet years

  • Spotlight: River Murray Annual Operating Outlook

Rainfall deciles - 3 months to February 2023, showing a significant deficiency in the north-east of the Basin.


From December to March severe rainfall deficiencies were experienced in the eastern corner of the northern Basin, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

As shown in the graphic on the left, rainfall deciles for the same period were mostly below average or very much below average for most of the Basin, demonstrating the drier trend has already commenced.

Since late 2020, 3 La Niña events have helped increase the Murray–Darling Basin’s water storages, which are now sitting at 92% as of 8 March 2023.

Rainfall deciles for February 2023, showing lower than average falls across a large area of the central Basin


February 2023 saw rainfall range from average to very much below average across the Basin. 

As shown in the graphic on the left, central areas of the of the northern and southern Basin received 0% of the monthly mean.

Despite this, water storages in both the southern and northern Murray–Darling Basin remain strong with whole of Basin storages at 92% as of 8 March 2023. 

In the northern Murray–Darling Basin rainfall ranged from average to very much below average. Towns like Mungindi in northern New South Wales received just 8.6mm for the month.

Meanwhile the southern Murray–Darling Basin was drier than average with towns like Corowa in Victoria recording high rainfall at 70mm for the month while Renmark in South Australia received just 2.2mm.

Water in storages as at 1 March 2023 - total Basin storage level at 92%

Water storages and streamflow

Public water storages across the Murray–Darling Basin declined slightly during February and were holding 20,573 GL (92%) as of 8 March 2023. This is very similar to this time last year on 16 March 2022 when whole of Basin storages were at 20,281 GL (91%).  

Public storages in the northern Basin decreased slightly from last month when they were at 97% on 1 February 2023.

The Menindee Lakes in far western New South Wales are still holding 100% capacity.

Other storages in the southern Basin have dropped slightly since last month, though they remain high at 15,103 GL (93%). This is a 5% drop from 1 February 2023 when southern Basin storages were sitting at 15,893 GL (98%). 

Despite this, storages are still high. As of 1 March 2023, Hume Dam was sitting at 96% while Dartmouth Dam was at 97%.

Climate and water forecast

Australia has just experienced 3 consecutive wet years and there is no record of 4 consecutive wet years. Based on this historic record and current conditions the Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting La Niña and the associated wet conditions are nearing their end.

In their latest outlook the Bureau reported the Murray–Darling Basin experienced nearly 40% below average rainfall during the 2022–23 summer.

For March to May 2023, below median rainfall is likely for most of the Murray–Darling Basin.

Australia’s temperature was 0.07 degrees above average for summer and above median temperatures are likely to very-likely to continue through March.

In recent months, very wet soils across south-eastern Australia have been a significant contributor to the severity of flooding and have also contributed to increased inflows into inland water storages.

There has been a particularly rapid drying of soil moisture in parts of the northern Murray–Darling Basin during the past month.

The outlook for eastern Australia is the driest it has been since 2019.

The Bureau reports that climate change continues to influence Australian and global climates. Australia's climate has warmed by around 1.47 °C in the period 1910–2021. Southern Australia has seen a reduction of 10% to 20% in cool season (April–October) rainfall in recent decades.

Summary of threats to water quality for March 2023 - 25 threats in total

Water quality

Traditionally, lower temperatures in autumn reduce the likelihood of water quality issues in the Basin as water temperature cools. The recent high flows have resulted in an increase of the risk of low dissolved oxygen across several areas in the southern Basin.

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority and state authorities monitor water quality across the Basin year-round. For more information on water quality and a map of threats, see the water quality page of our website.

Summary of key water quality issues

  • Hypoxic blackwater: Current high flows and flooding is interacting with organic matter and carbon on the floodplains, increasing the risk of hypoxic blackwater events in the southern Basin.
  • Low dissolved oxygen: In some systems, dissolved oxygen levels are falling due to flooding. At present these levels generally remain above critical ecological thresholds.
  • Blue-green algae: : There is currently a low risk of blue-green algae, however conditions have the potential to change rapidly. For the latest information on blue-green algae alerts, contact the relevant state government contacts via the Getting information about current algal blooms page of our website.

Spotlight - One of the southern Basin’s wettest years delivers strong water availability

The southern Murray–Darling Basin tracked some of its highest rainfall and inflow totals on record in the tail end of 2022, according to the MDBA’s update to the 2022-23 Annual Operating Outlook.

The update details how the Murray–Darling Basin Authority may run the River Murray under a range of possible climate and rainfall scenarios, to help water users and river managers with future planning. Normally released before Christmas, the update was delayed until the main River Murray flood peak had passed. 

MDBA Executive Director of River Management, Andrew Reynolds, said the report highlighted the widespread rain and flooding that has dominated the 2022 water year.

“The volume of water flowing into the River Murray system in November and December was the largest recorded in 127 years,” Mr Reynolds said.

“This followed record-breaking rainfall in many southern Basin communities, particularly between August and December. 

"It is heartening to see the Murray River system positioned to provide strong water availability for communities and the environment well into 2023-24.

“This also means it is unlikely the MDBA will need to draw water from the Menindee Lakes into the Murray system anytime soon.”

Mr Reynolds said parts the Murray were expected to return to regulated conditions in the coming months if conditions remained relatively dry, however, water storages in the Murray River system remained at very high levels for this time of year, with Dartmouth Dam and Hume Dam virtually full and the Menindee Lakes above 100 percent.