NSW Irrigators’ Council (NSWIC) shares the frustrations of the Menindee community over the adequacy of the State’s water gauging infrastructure and forecasting capacity.
“We’ve seen this before, when the drought was breaking and flow forecasts kept changing like a yo-yo,” said NSWIC CEO, Claire Miller. “It’s not good for confidence in the system.”
“There is no reason why our water gauging network, combined with satellite data and ground-truthing, can’t more accurately indicate flood levels moving down inland rivers.”
The 2020 independent assessment of the first flush management, following recording-breaking drought, recommended improvements in water gauging infrastructure. Whilst consultation has occurred, NSWIC wants to see less talking and more action – and more investment.
Menindee concerns grew when flow rates similar to upstream Wilcannia (~45 gigalitres per day) were forecast but arrived at more than 70 gigalitres per day with the possibility of rising further.
WaterNSW said in a statement the forecast was changed after water began branching out from Talyawalka Creek above the Menindee Lakes. It claims this ‘had not been expected’.
“This flood has been coming for months; there really shouldn’t have been any surprises,” Ms Miller said. “The Talyawalka Creek itself has been running for more than a year, and its flow downstream can be measured at a gauging point outside Wilcannia.
“Maps show the creek and the Darling River share the floodplain. Local experience in past big floods is the Talyawalka runs back across the floodplain into the Darling above Menindee.”
WaterNSW, under legislation, is responsible for operating water management works, gauging stations and other monitoring equipment, including during flood emergencies.
The data the BoM and the SES have to manage an event, is only as good as the data that is actually measured,” Ms Miller said.
“It is concerning that WaterNSW did not have anyone available to attend community meetings at Menindee over the festive break to answer questions about river operations, despite knowing this peak was on its way,” said Ms Miller.
“Surely the movement of water in this landscape should be better understood by authorities. WaterNSW has recently been through a major restructure. We are concerned that it has lost vital corporate knowledge and experience in its river operation teams in the process.”