Authority plans for low rainfall

By Country News

Updated operational planning for the Murray River has sharpened focus on the potential for dry conditions to continue through to winter next year according to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

MDBA river management executive director Andrew Reynolds said the 2018-19 River Murray System Annual Operating Plan had been updated to reflect the low rainfall and relatively warm conditions experienced across much of the southern basin during the past winter and spring.

‘‘While we had a small amount of rain in August, things were unusually dry in July and September, which is typically when the system receives most of its rainfall and inflows,’’ Mr Reynolds said.

‘‘We will continue to plan for all scenarios, including very wet conditions, but this update reflects the greater possibility that dry or very dry scenarios will eventuate.

‘‘We have been transferring water to Lake Victoria during spring to improve its storage in preparation for the demands of summer.

‘‘However, under dry scenarios we will look to target a volume less than 350Gl, half its capacity, by the end of May 2019.’’

Mr Reynolds said under all dry scenarios the MDBA would continue to run the river high downstream of Yarrawonga, in anticipation of heavy irrigation demand throughout the Murray.

‘‘We are conscious, however, that if conditions remain dry there is the possibility that demand will reduce as water entitlement holders with an allocation will elect to carry over some of their water to the next year,’’ he said.

‘‘We are keenly aware of the difficult times many people are facing due to the drought.

‘‘This access helps us to reduce the risk of a shortfall in water delivery during times of peak irrigation demand.’’

Environmental water holders have used less water than they would in an average year, Mr Reynolds said, in part because the usual over-bank flows in the Barmah-Millewa forest caused by winter rain did not eventuate and as a result there was no natural event to extend.

‘‘We urge everyone who uses water to plan ahead for all scenarios, including the possibility that conditions stay dry and allocations do not improve.

‘‘None of us know with certainty how much water we’ll have in storage at the end of the season — that depends on how much it rains.’’