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Persistent wet conditions drive River Murray operations into the new year

Ongoing wet conditions across the River Murray system will dominate river management strategies for the remainder of the water year, according to the MDBA’s update to the 2021–22 Annual Operating Outlook released today.

Published: 20 December 2021

The Annual Operating Outlook, released by the MDBA in August every year, is reviewed and refined as peak irrigation season approaches to guide water managers and help water users in their business planning.

The MDBA acting Executive Director of River Management, Dr Andrew Kremor, said the La Niña weather pattern was making its presence felt and would underpin management strategies for the next few months.

“The season never plays out in accordance with any one forecast scenario, so we always consider the potential for a range of conditions to affect the river and water availability. As the season progresses, it’s important to review and update our planning,” Dr Kremor said.

“It is heartening that the River Murray system in 2021–22 looks positioned to provide strong water availability well into next year.

“All water storages in the Murray system are at high levels, with Hume Dam effectively full and Menindee Lakes at 110% capacity. Strong flows from the tributaries, such as the Goulburn, Kiewa and Murrumbidgee rivers have also boosted flows in the Murray and these flows are forecast to continue over the Christmas period.”

Over the coming months, the MDBA will continue to revise forecasts and operational plans that identify the volume and timing of the MDBA’s call on water from the Menindee Lakes to support the River Murray System. The timing will depend on when unregulated flows end in the River Murray system, including the spill from the lakes being managed by WaterNSW.

“It’s looking highly unlikely that the MDBA will need to call on water from the Menindee Lakes on behalf of Basin states anytime soon, given the system is in flood, and WaterNSW forecasts an extra 2200 GL of water is on its way from the northern Basin,” Dr Kremor said.

“Given it’s been wet so far, the risk of a shortfall in water delivery to licence holders is low overall, especially compared with 2019–20, although managing the risk of short-term spikes in demand will continue to be a focus of our river operations team over summer.

“We evaluate conditions every day, based on Bureau data, inflows, predicted inflows and historical records to determine how to best manage the dams and flows in the river.

“The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting wetter than average conditions to continue over summer, increasing the risk of flooding for communities and farmers near the river. Communities are encouraged to use the Bureau of Meteorology website for flood alerts and sign-up for their local SES information.”

The River Murray System Annual Operating Outlook update is prepared by the MDBA with input from the Australian Government and the New South Wales, Victorian and South Australian Governments.

The update is available online at: River Murray System Annual Operating Outlook

ENDS

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