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Wet, wet, wet

The Murray–Darling Basin has experienced its wettest November on record.

Published: 16 December 2021

Damp conditions are predicted to continue throughout summer with the Bureau of Meteorology reporting La Niña is firmly established in the tropical pacific for the second year in a row.

La Niña is a climate driver that typically results in higher-than-average rainfall for eastern Australia, including parts of the Murray–Darling Basin.

The recent high rainfall has caused flooding across many areas of the Basin with some communities forced to evacuate as rivers break their banks and dams spill.

Catchments including the Lachlan Valley in the southern Basin and several northern catchments have been impacted.

From a river health perspective – there are some positives: Flooding helps spread organic material, nutrients, and sediments which enrich floodplain soils and reconnect floodplain wetlands and billabongs, and give the thirsty forest floodplains a much needed drink.

And flooding can also act as natural triggers for some bird and fish breeding events, many of which have seen significant declines over recent decades.

Floods occurring at short intervals also help to mobilise leaf litter that accumulates on the floodplains and wash it into the rivers, driving the food chains reliant on this critical food source and preventing excessive build-up that may pose problems if left to accumulate.

Communities have welcomed the increase to storage levels, but the wet conditions are also impacting the quality and quantity of many winter cereals due for harvest in the north.

Several northern Basin communities are still in drought while others are being deluged by the rains.

Many northern farmers did not have time to complete harvest when the rains struck, reducing the quality of some winter cereals and cotton crops.

These rains mean the Darling (Baaka) River is carrying additional flows south which will prompt benefits for water users and the environment along its length.

Where possible, Basin states and the MDBA are working to minimise the impact of flooding downstream of water storages.

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