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Chief Executive update – February 2022

Here at the Murray–Darling Basin Authority we are preparing for another busy and productive year focused on supporting Basin communities and delivering important water reform.

Andrew Reynolds

Executive Director, River Management

Andrew is the Executive Director of River Management. He has more than 27 years of experience in the water industry at the Commonwealth and state level, managing major water supply infrastructure, and is the immediate past chairman of the Australian National Committee on Large Dams. Andrew was the Acting Chief Executive of the Murray–Darling Basin Authority between September 2021 and June 2022.

Published: 17 February 2022

The beginning of a new year often brings with it excitement and anticipation, and here at the MDBA we are expecting 2022 to be full of productive initiatives, projects and collaboration with people throughout the Basin.

So far, we have been challenged by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it’s having on Basin communities and their economies, as well as our ability to travel safely in the Basin. We will be ready to recommence broader activity in the Basin once these pressures ease in coming months.

It’s hard to believe that this time last year (February 2021) whole-of-Basin water storages were holding just 51% of their capacity. Thanks to widespread rain from the prevailing La Niña weather pattern, this situation has been turned around and Basin storages as a whole are now at 92% capacity.

On the River Murray, January 2022 proved to be a particularly wet month at Hume Dam - we saw the highest-ever daily rainfall of 95.4 mm and highest monthly rainfall of 317.8 mm. Since the 1960s, when Hume Dam was expanded to its current size, this is only the fourth time the dam has been above 99% capacity in January. The previous occasion was 28 years ago in January 1994.

Hume Dam spillway gates and valves used for previous water releases.
Hume Dam spillway gates and valves used for previous water releases.

The prevailing wet conditions kept our river operators in flood operations at Hume Dam from August 2021 right through to late January 2022. During this time the MDBA worked with WaterNSW and the Bureau of Meteorology to actively manage releases from the dam ahead of expected rain to avoid downstream flooding, while successfully meeting our obligations under the Murray–Darling Basin Agreement to maximise water held in the dam. In recent weeks we have also adjusted the way water is released from Hume to improve dissolved oxygen levels, which is a legacy issue from the 2020 bushfires in the Upper Murray catchments. This work is ongoing, but early signs are that its working with improve oxygen levels for fish and Murray crays.

While all this water in the system is positive news, we are mindful that some areas in the northern Basin have experienced extensive flooding. WaterNSW is working hard to mitigate the associated risk of hypoxic blackwater, and we are supportive of their operations.

We are excited to be preparing for our second annual regional conference, River reflections, which will be held in the Sunraysia area of Victoria from 1 to 2 June. This will be our second conference, after the highly successful event hosted last year in Griffith, New South Wales. River reflections is about hearing from the diverse communities and industries of the Basin. It is an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas and learn about what’s happening in the Basin, and I encourage you to look out in the coming months for ways you can take part.

I was delighted last month when the Australian Government announced $66 million to upgrade and integrate the Murray–Darling Basin's 24 river models. This will go a long way to support the crucial work of the MDBA and Basin governments by ensuring water managers have timely access to consistent modelling data and enable greater transparency in water management.

The news of Roseanne Healy's appointment to the Authority came a little late for the last edition of River Reach. Roseanne is from South Australia and knows how important a healthy working river system is. She has more than 20 years of experience and expertise in corporate governance, strategy and investment analysis, further building on the knowledge and experience of our existing Authority members.

Please feel free to contact us at engagement@mdba.gov.au if you require more information or have any stories you would like to see included in our Newsroom. We always value your feedback.

Best wishes for a safe and productive year.

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