Environmental water to be released into the Barwon-Darling River system

After more than a month of discussions between north-west NSW Councils, the NSW Water Minister and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) Office, it has been announced that the CEWH will facilitate a 23,800 ML release of environmental water into the Barwon-Darling River system.

On Monday, April 16, the NSW Government announced it will work with the CEWH to facilitate the release of the environmental water.

The water will be released Tuesday, April 17, but is not expected to reach the Barwon Darling until April, 29.

To help alleviate the dire water issue in their shires, representatives of Walgett, Central Darling and Bourke councils met with Water Minister Niall Blair in March 2018, regarding the request by the councils and Central Darling Shire for the CEWH Office to consider the provision of the water from their holdings for an environmental flow in the Barwon Darling River System.

In April it was revealed that the CEWH was evaluating the need for an environmental flow into the upper reaches of the Barwon Darling System given the good flows in both the Culgoa and Warrego Rivers.

The decision to release the environmental water has been applauded by the Mayor of Bourke Shire Council, Barry Hollman who said the release recognises the extremely dry conditions in the Northern Basin and the fact that the recent flow within the system has meant that the River bed is already wet and this will mean the maximum benefit will be derived from the flow which was no doubt a factor in the decision making process.

Councillor Ian Woodcock Mayor of Walgett thanked both the CEWH and Mr Blair for the fact that they had listened to the concerns of the Councils and over the past few months had worked together to bring the flow to fruition in what has been a cooperative effort by all tiers of government.

Brewarrina Mayor Phillip O’Connor said the spirit of cooperation between the Commonwealth and the State and the genuine efforts to facilitate the flow is very much appreciated and acknowledged by the four Councils.

The Administrator of Central Darling Shire Greg Wright echoed the sentiments of the Mayors highlighting the fact that the river at Wilcannia had stopped flowing in January and the presence of blue green algae has been a cause for some concern.

Minister for Regional Water, Niall Blair said Commonwealth and NSW environmental water reserves will be released to enhance river flows in northern NSW and support native habitats along the river system.

“We know how important the Barwon and Darling rivers are to our most remote communities and this event will refresh those rivers after a long period of hot and dry weather,” Mr Blair said.

“There is widespread support for the release of this environmental water and today highlights the willing co-operation through all levels of Government and the Northern Basin community.”

The announcement follows the NSW Government’s water reform consultation that included a discussion paper on environmental flow management.

This event comes at just the right time and will be used as a pilot to inform reforms for environmental water management.

An interagency working group has been established to manage the event, which will be overseen by the NSW Natural Resources Access Regulator.