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Published: 18 October 2019   •   Media release
Publication error: On 17 October 2019 the MDBA inadvertently published a draft version of the report Monitoring first flush flows in the Namoi, Macquarie and Warrego River. The MDBA replaced this version with a final report at 8:30pm 18 October 2019. The MDBA acknowledges publication of an earlier version may have caused unnecessary concern and confusion to landholders. Satellite images alone are not evidence of illegal activity, they indicate areas for further consideration and possible compliance investigation. The MDBA has uploaded an updated version of the report, and will now review its publishing practices.

The results are now available of the Murray–Darling Basin Authority's (MDBA) satellite monitoring of flows in the Namoi and Macquarie rivers earlier this year.

The MDBA Chief Executive, Phillip Glyde, said long-awaited rainfall in the northern Murray–Darling Basin had led to significant flows during autumn—the first for more than a year in the Namoi River and for many months in the Macquarie River.

"The MDBA used satellite tracking to monitor the water's progress and irrigator compliance with NSW Government embargoes, which were imposed to protect these important flows from extraction between 1 April and 7 May," Mr Glyde said.

"The embargoes were put in place a short time after the flows began, to enable this ‘first flush' to reach as far down the two rivers as possible after a long dry spell. The first flush was of critical importance to the rivers' ecological health and to downstream communities struggling with the drought.

"The MDBA used imagery from its new MDBSat system to track the water until mid-May, monitoring where and when the flows were present and noting changes to the landscape, with particular attention paid to dry storages along the way.

"In the Namoi, the MDBA found that 29 private storages appeared to fill or partially fill during the embargo. In the Macquarie, another three private storages were found to fill during the embargo. There are many reasons why a farm dam could have filled quite legally which is why it is important for follow up work to be done on the ground by state compliance officers."

Information was referred on the day to the NSW Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) for further investigation.

Mr Glyde said cooperation between agencies at the state and Commonwealth level is what farmers, local communities and the broader public rightly expect of water managers, especially in times of water scarcity.

"Flows of this nature carry much needed economic, cultural and ecological benefits right through the system, and in times of drought it is critically important the water is allowed to reach as far as possible downstream."

The report Monitoring first flush flows in the Namoi, Macquarie and Warrego River is available on the MDBA website at


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