Councils join forces to oppose water plan

Published on 08 September 2020


Three Councils in Far West New South Wales have joined forces to voice their opposition to plans that will have a detrimental impact on the long term water security in the Lower Darling, Menindee Lakes and Anabranch river systems. 

Broken Hill City Council, Central Darling Shire Council and Wentworth Shire Council have unanimously opposed all 12 proposals within the Menindee Lakes Water Savings Project. 

The Councils believe there has been a lack of transparency surrounding the project and support the Menindee Lower Darling Stakeholder Advisory Group’s recent opposition to the proposals. 

The Menindee Lakes System can hold up to 2000 GL and the Water Savings Project is designed to save 106 GL a year. The three Councils all agree the plan relies on reducing the amount of water kept in the Menindee Lakes to an unsustainable level, to as low as 80 GL.  

If implemented the plan will have significantly negative impacts on the Menindee Lakes, Lower Darling and Anabranch river systems, which are still recovering after the extreme environmental devastation of recent years. 

The Councils support the Menindee Stakeholder Advisory Group and broader community’s demands that measures be taken by NSW Water to ensure water security for the region, before any further discussions on the Menindee Water Savings Project continue.

These include:

• The assurance of critical supply of water in dry or low flow years for the environment, cultural and human needs along the Darling, at Menindee Lakes, and within the Lower Darling and Anabranch systems. Recent reports all recognise the importance of the protection of first flush events for the health of the Darling River. These include the Matthews Report, Murray-Darling Basin Authority Response to the Matthews Report, the Vertessy Report into the Menindee Fish Kills, the Academy of Science Report into the Menindee Fish Kills, and the NSW Natural Resources Commission Review of the Barwon-Darling Water Sharing Plan. 

• The critical human needs for towns, cultural, stock and domestic water needs of riparian landowners be provided for before access to irrigation is allowed in the Barwon-Darling and Northern Tributaries.  This management arrangement has been long opposed by some northern irrigators, but provides important protections for the river, environment and people. 

• Critical flow triggers in the Barwon-Darling and Lower Darling, and storage volumes in the Menindee Lakes, be determined to ensure the protection of the health of the river is made a priority before access to water for irrigation is allowed during dry and or low flow years. The purpose of flow triggers and targets is to provide for turning over water in weir pools, providing for fish passage, and providing for the dispersal of blue-green algae in the Lower Darling River system. 

• A volume target for Lake Wetherell and Lake Pamamaroo in the Menindee Lakes System should be set to provide for up to two years’ water security for the Lower Darling, to prevent the potential for future fish kills.  Such a volume would be consistent with the original intent of the management of the Menindee Lakes, to provide two years’ drought reserve for far-west NSW. 

Broken Hill City, Central Darling and Wentworth Councils support these measures and are calling on the NSW Government to: 

• To re-engage with the Chair and Committee of the Menindee Stakeholder Advisory Group in an open and transparent process, to ensure the views of the Menindee Community and all stakeholders form part of the decision-making process. 

• To ensure any proposals for the Menindee Lakes, Lower Darling and Anabranch systems are placed on public exhibition, and the wider community of interest be canvassed, prior to any decision making by the State Government.  

Mayor Darriea Turley AM – Broken Hill City Council 

Administrator Bob Stewart- Central Darling Shire Council 

Mayor Melisa Hederics – Wentworth Shire Council