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Published: 18 December 2018   •   Media release

Water for the environment has again started to flow along the Murray River now that transfers of consumptive water that occurred through most of spring have been reduced.

MDBA head of River Management Andrew Reynolds said about 3,000 megalitres a day of water for the environment was now flowing through the system, delivering environmental benefits throughout the River Murray and down to the Coorong.

“It is timely that this water is able to be accommodated along with high volumes of consumptive water now,” Mr Reynolds said.

“Low inflows and dry conditions limited our plans to deliver water for the environment during the spring because channel capacity was taken up moving water to where it will be needed to meet peak demand during summer.

“All Basin governments have recognised the need to work through how we can better integrate the needs of the environment along with other water users’ needs, so that water for the environment can get the best possible environmental outcomes.

“It’s in everyone’s interests to look at how the various demands can be satisfied so that all water users have greater certainty about the reliability of water delivery.

“During spring about 15,000 megalitres a day had been released from upstream storages to bolster Lake Victoria levels and meet early season irrigation demands.

“We expect to be maintaining higher flows into December, with water for the environment reducing to about 1,000 megalitres a day towards the end of the month.

“The low inflows and dry conditions, coupled with the need to conserve as much water as possible to meet demands over a forecast hot and dry summer, made river operations this season especially challenging.

“The rules that govern river operations developed over more than 100 years to support irrigation and we now need to update those rules so that we can manage the river for the environment as well.”

Basin governments have committed to work together to explore ways to adapt river operations to balance delivery of both irrigation water and water for the environment.

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, Jody Swirepik welcomed the commitment from all Basin states to work together to improve the situation.

“Our inability to use our water this spring has had an impact on the environmental outcomes we will achieve this year and will mean that we carry more water over into next year” Ms Swirepik said.

“Water for the environment needs to be able to be used in the places and at the times that allow the best outcomes, especially during dry times—because just as farmers and communities feel the effects of drought, so does the river system they depend on.

“I’m pleased that some water for the environment is in the system and can now be used to maintain refuge habitat, deliver benefits to river dependent animals and do our best during these dry times to keep a connection to the Coorong.  

“There are some great things river operators are already doing to help reduce the risk that water for the environment cannot be used but an enduring solution will take longer to implement and will involve changing how the river is run.

“It’s the right time to work through these issues with the states so that the community can have ongoing confidence that the Basin Plan will deliver a healthier Basin for the environment, communities and industries.”

ENDS

For more information, contact the MDBA Media office at media@mdba.gov.au or 02 6279 0141

Department of the Environment and Energy - Media Team 02 6275 9880 media@environment.gov.au

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