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Govt digs for answers as water dries up

07.06.2018, 苏州美甲美睫培训学校, by .

Concerns are growing over the security of Broken Hill’s water supply as water levels in the Menindie Lakes hover at low levels.BROKEN Hill’s water supply has hit the critical limit with storages due to run out in about 12 months.
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A lack of rain in the far west NSW city’s catchment of north-east NSW and southern Qld has since forced the NSW Department of Primary Industries to impose temporary water restrictions on users in the NSW Border Rivers, the regulated Gwydir and Lower Namoi Rivers districts, and any large water users along the Barwon-Darling River system.

Last week, NSW DPI water deputy director Gavin Hanlon said dry conditions across much of western NSW had “made it necessary to put in place these temporary restrictions to help ensure future large flows reach the Menindee Lakes”.

“The NSW Office of Water will continue to closely monitor the situation so that these restrictions can be removed once the security of water supply to Broken Hill is assured,” he said.

The Menindee Lakes is the principal water supply storage for the rural city.

Local restrictions have also been put in place with the exception of supply for stock, domestic and permanent plantings.

It is the first time restrictions have been enforced since the Millennium Drought of 2006-07.

The NSW Government took control of the Menindee Lakes Scheme in February last year, when total storage dropped to 480,000 megalitres. As of January 31, the NSW Office of Water reported levels to be at 113,095mgL.

Lake Menindee is totally dry, while pumping from Lake Pamamaroo to Lake Copi Hollow and from Lake Tandure into Lake Wetherell has been underway to keep salinity levels down and reduce evaporation.

A spokesperson for NSW Natural Resources, Lands and Water minister Kevin Humphries said an inflow of 200-250 gigalitres to Menindee Lakes was required to lift restrictions. This figure would increase the security of supply for Broken Hill above the 21-month trigger.

But upstream, there was concern the water not being utilised by irrigators would fail to make it downstream where it was needed most.

“Northern valley irrigators (mainly cotton) are concerned about how much may or may not make it down to the Menindee lakes, making the embargo pointless,” NSW Irrigators Council chief executive Mark McKenzie said.

“And if it dries out again like 2006, it’s likely that any small flow events probably won’t reach town weir pools at Bourke or Wilcannia, and certainly won’t reach Menindee.

“However, recent rain has wet up catchments so I expect some flows will reach Menindee; how much is unsure. However, minor flood flow that has come out of the Warrego into the Darling downstream should also reach the upper lakes of the Menindee system.

“While we fully understand the frustration from irrigators about not being able to finish irrigating their cotton crops, the rules are that urban water is first priority and we have got to respect that.”

Broken Hill mayor Wincen Guy said the situation was very concerning for residents, with no positive long-term rain forecast.

“Broken Hill is at critical water supply, we have about 12 months worth of water,” he said.

“We did have a significant rainfall event recently, 2-3 inches, which gave us another 2-3 months of supply, which has given some relief to farmers and tanks have been replenished, but it was a long time coming.

“The council has been in discussions with the NSW Government, the Office of Water, water and environment ministers, Broken Hill water authority Essential Water and the MDBA, so everyone is aware of what is going on, so hopefully we can come up with solutions prior to it getting any worse.”

He said the lack of rain had forced them to consider alternative water supply options, such as sinking bores.

Last week, the NSW DPI Office of Water announced it would undertake a “groundwater investigation in an effort to secure Broken Hill’s water supply during periods when there is insufficient water available in the Menindee Lakes system”.

One bore was sunk to a depth of 217 metre with five more targeting the Renmark Group aquifer being considered.

“If a suitable supply is sourced, a bore field will then be constructed to meet Broken Hill’s emergency water supply requirements,” the DPI said.

But the bore water solution has been a controversial one, with strong opposition from some Broken Hill residents.

“Some members of the community are concerned it could be the demise of the Menindee Lakes,” Mr Guy said.

“However, in all of the discussions we have been having with the NSW government, it has never been suggested that the Menindee Lakes would be forgotten.”

But Darryn Clifton, Menindee Lakes Action Group, argues that the supply problem needed to be fixed upstream, rather than creating new ones.

“Bore water is not the alternative,” he said.

“Broken Hill has always been reliant on the Menindee Lakes system and has never had any problems in the past, even when the town was at its peak population of 35,000 (now only 18,000).

“As a kid I remember the only time they drained water out of the lakes was when freshwater was coming in, so it was always full.

“It has only been through the over-extraction of water in the upper catchments that there is less water coming down.”

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