Macquarie valley drought plan on to next phase as dam falls

Regulated river flows beyond Warren will cease from early spring if current conditions continue, says WaterNSW.

WaterNSW is in the process of looking into a range of measures to address the impacts of drought in the Macquarie Valley to secure water supply for critical needs.

Executive manager for system operations at WaterNSW, Adrian Langdon said the Macquarie valley is in the grip of one of the worst droughts on record.

"With ongoing low inflows and storage levels continuing to decrease, the Macquarie Valley is a priority catchment for drought response and WaterNSW is working hard to extend the supply of water to regional towns for as long as possible," he said.

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"We are looking at a range of options including temporary modifications to the Warren weir and our regulators at Duck Creek and Crooked Creek.

"These temporary works would help us to minimise any system losses and extend existing limited water supplies for Warren, Nyngan and Cobar," he said.

Temporary modifications to Warren weir and the regulators at Duck and Crooked Creeks will be required to raise the weir pools to permit water to be supplied to Nyngan and Cobar.

These changes will be temporary and reversible to enable flows from rainfall events to be directed to downstream customers when possible.

WaterNSW is working closely with state and federal government agencies to ensure the options meet the critical water needs of regional towns and that the social, environmental and economic impacts are being monitored and effectively managed.

"Across the state, WaterNSW's management of the storages and river system has delayed the worst effects of the drought," Mr Langdon said.

"If not for the efficient storage of the 2016 flood inflows in our northern dams, many of these river systems would have ceased to flow a long time ago."

Current Outlook 

  • Already no allocation for general security in 2018-19 and 30 percent of irrigation carryover and environmental water is withheld pending further inflows. No general security irrigation allocation will be available in 2019-20 if conditions remain dry.
  • Without inflows high security customers including the Cobar mines, Dubbo abattoirs, permanent plantings, Western Plains Zoo and Dubbo golf club are at risk of having reduced access to water after July. WaterNSW is working with these customers to identify alternative water sources.
  • Regular river flows beyond Warren may also cease in early spring if no inflows are received.
  • Landholders' access to water for stock and domestic use will depend on dam inflows and tributary flows and are likely to be only intermittent from July, especially downstream of Warren.
  • Burrendong dam is likely to be unable to release water by gravity by March 2020 at which point WaterNSW would be required to pump the remaining water from the storage to continue to supply water to towns downstream. Even with all these measures the system could cease to flow by June 2020 if there are no inflows to the system.