River Murray operations 14-21 June 2017

23 June 2017

Welcome to our summary report on River Murray operations for the week ending 21 June 2017.

You can find the full weekly report under the River Murray system section of our website.

Rainfall and inflows

Very little rainfall was recorded across the Murray-Darling Basin this week as high pressure systems persisted over southeast Australia.

Dry conditions meant stream flows along upper Murray tributaries remained low this week. The flow in the Mitta Mitta River at Hinnomunjie bridge averaged around 300 ML/day while the flow at Biggara upstream of Hume averaged around 400 ML/day. The Ovens River, measured at Rocky Point, averaged around 450 ML/day.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s ENSO Outlook (El Niño–Southern Oscillation) has been downgraded from El Niño WATCH to INACTIVE. International climate models have continued to ease their outlooks for El Niño in recent weeks, with all models now suggesting the current ENSO-neutral state will persist for the remainder of the year (El Nino increases the chances of dryer than average conditions).

While models have steadily eased back the likelihood of El Niño, most still indicate an increased chance of warmer and drier than average conditions for Australia over winter. This is reflected in the BOM’s three month outlook from June to August (see below).

Map of Australia with colour coding of rainfall.
Three month rainfall outlook for June to August 2017
Three month rainfall outlook for June to August 2017. Courtesy of the Bureau of Meteorology.

Total in Storage

Total MDBA storage increased by 39 GL this week, with the active storage now 5,615 GL (65% capacity).

River operations

  • At Dartmouth Reservoir, the storage volume increased by 4 GL to 2,942 GL (78% capacity). The release, measured at Colemans gauge, continued at the minimum flow rate of 200 ML/day.  
  • At Hume Reservoir, the storage increased 37 GL to 2,053 GL (69% capacity). The increases to Hume storage have been driven by consistent high releases from the Snowy Hydro Scheme. These releases have averaged around 6,000 ML/day since the beginning of May. The release from Hume was increased this week to 3,000 ML/day to meet demands downstream of Yarrawonga. 
  • At Yarrawonga Weir, the pool level eased to 124.73 m AHD. Releases from the weir averaged around 3,500 ML/day to meet environmental targets for base flows in the Murray. Releases downstream of Yarrawonga are expected to vary between 3,800 ML/day to 4,200 ML/day for the rest of June, again to meet environmental targets.
  • On the Edward River system, the gates into the Edward and Gulpa Offtakes remain open. Flows through the Edward and Gulpa offtakes have stayed low, at 420 ML/day and 150 ML/day respectively in response to the low releases downstream of Yarrawonga.  Flow downstream of Stevens Weir remained around 300 ML/day for most of the week. The weir pool is around 4.0 m (local gauge) and will vary between 3.8 m and 4.0 m over winter to provide connectivity for fish in the Colligen and Yallakool Creeks and downstream in the Wakool River. Visit the WaterNSW website for more information.
  • On the Goulburn River, the flow at McCoys Bridge is currently 900 ML/day, which is above the minimum flow rate (350 ML/day), to provide flows for the environment. Goulburn-Murray Water increased the flow at Goulburn Weir on Tuesday 20 June to deliver environmental flows in the Goulburn River. The peak release from the Goulburn Weir on 27 June is expected to be about 9,500 ML/day. Releases in the Goulburn River have been planned by the Goulburn Broken CMA. More information can be found in the MDBA media release, the GMW factsheet and the Goulburn Broken CMA website.
  • On the Campaspe River, there is a small environmental flow passing Rochester at a rate of around 150 ML/day.
  • At Torrumbarry, the weir pool level has remained at 85.7 m AHD, or 35 cm below the full supply level (FSL) this week as part of the weir pool variability program. Visit the MDBA website for more information. Diversions to National Channel continued at around 420 ML/day to supply flows along Gunbower Creek for the benefit of native fish. Release downstream of Torrumbarry Weir have remained steady this week around 3,200 ML/day. The flow from the Goulburn is expected to begin increasing water levels at Torrumbarry this coming week and is expected to peak at over 10,000 ML/day in early July.
  • Inflow from the Murrumbidgee River averaged 600 ML/day this week. Environmental agencies are planning to deliver a ‘river fresh’ along the Murrumbidgee River and Yanco Creek systems starting in July. A flow rate of around 20,000 ML/day at Wagga Wagga is planned to improve the health of wetlands along the mid-Murrumbidgee River and to deliver instream benefits throughout the system. This event would deliver significant inflows, at within-channel rates, to the Murray later in July and into August. Further environmental benefits will accrue as the flows are passed down the Murray to South Australia.
  • At Euston Weir, the pool level is currently 47.49m AHD, 11cm below FSL. The pool level is expected to be varied over the coming weeks, with the level planned to decrease as much as 40 cm below FSL. The release downstream of the weir has been steady this week and is currently around 5,400 ML/day. An increase in flow as a result of the Goulburn pulse is expected to peak at Euston around mid-July.
  • Downstream of Euston at Hattah Lakes, pumping of environmental water into the wetlands is expected to begin on 3 July. Environmental water will build upon the ecological outcomes resulting from the natural flooding that occurred in 2016, and continue to improve the ecological health of this wetland system.
  • On the Darling River, the total storage volume in the Menindee Lakes decreased by 5 GL this week and is currently 771 GL (45% capacity). Releases from Menindee Lakes to the lower Darling River at Weir 32 are continuing around 400 ML/day. This is above the normal minimum of 200 ML/day at this time of year. The additional water is being released on behalf of environmental water holders to benefit native fish in the lower Darling River. Releases from Cawndilla outlet to the Great Darling Anabranch have continued at 100 ML/day this week also for the benefit of native fish. The delivery of water to the Great Darling Anabranch will cease later in June.
  • At the junction of the Darling and Murray rivers at Wentworth, flow has reduced to around 5,500 ML/day. Downstream of the weir, inflows from the Great Darling Anabranch continue at low rates.
  • At Locks 9, 8 and 7, the pool levels are currently 7, 38 and 45 cm below FSL respectively. Pool levels are expected to be varied over the coming weeks. Weir pool variability helps to restore a more natural wetting and drying cycle to riverbanks and adjacent wetlands within the influence of the weir pool.
  • At Lake Victoria, the storage volume is rising and is currently 429 GL (63% capacity). Over the coming months MDBA will manage the filling of Lake Victoria so that the storage volume peaks as late in the year as possible. This strategy aims to encourage the growth of foreshore vegetation and helps protect against erosion impacts on aboriginal cultural heritage, whilst maximising the storage available to help supply flow to South Australia during next summer and autumn.
  • Flow to South Australia increased on the weekend to 6,000 ML/day. Operations are currently targeting a flow of 6,700 ML/day.
  • At the Lower Lakes, the 5-day average water level in Lake Alexandrina remained steady at 0.68 m AHD. Releases through the barrages averaged around 1,900 ML/day this week via gates at Goolwa and Tauwitchere barrages.

Releases from Dartmouth Dam into Banimboola pondage remain low
Releases from Dartmouth Dam into Banimboola pondage remain low. Photo courtesy of MDBA.

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