Water

Zero allocation again expected

By Country News

NSW Murray irrigators are again expected to receive zero general security allocation next year, as dam levels across the Murray-Darling Basin drop below 30 per cent for the first time since May 2016.

If conditions remain dry it’s expected Victorians with high reliability shares in the Murray catchment will also face zero allocations, with wet conditions needed for entitlement holders to reach full allocations by October, according to Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

River operations head Andrew Reynolds said storages this time last year were at 52 per cent.

‘‘While 30 per cent storage is a concern to water managers across the basin, the southern basin is in better shape than the north. What is widely regarded as the southern drought reserve, Dartmouth Dam, currently holds just over one third of the water held in storage in the entire basin,’’ he said.

‘‘We don’t know how long the drought will last, and continue to plan for the possibility that storage levels will be a concern into next year.

‘‘It is usual for reserves to be drawn down every year at the end of the irrigation season, with the expectation that water availability will increase as winter and spring rains top-up the storages,’’ Mr Reynolds said.

‘‘In the past year those rains have not eventuated or have been very limited. The last time we had similar conditions was in autumn 2016, when basin-wide storage levels bottomed out at 28 per cent before recovering to 84 per cent six months later following widespread rain in the southern basin. At the time, however, dam levels in the north remained relatively low and have continued to decline as widespread drought persists.

‘‘With dry conditions expected through autumn, the MDBA are anticipating irrigators will carry over water where they can to shore up their supply into next year.

‘‘We’re keeping a constant eye on what’s happening and we’re working with the state governments, the Bureau of Meteorology and local communities to make sure we have the best possible information to guide water management as the year progresses.’’