A NSW Government website

Drought recovery

First flows and updates

Information on flows into Menindee Lakes and operational procedures for re-starting flows into the Lower Darling River as well as updates on the Menindee Lakes, Lower Darling River and Macquarie Marshes.

First flows

The first flows from widespread rainfall over north-west NSW and southern Queensland during January/February 2020 started arriving at Menindee Lakes (Lake Wetherell) on 10 March. Flows are expected to continue into Lake Wetherell over coming months.

Based on combined rainfall events it is estimated that over 550 gigalitres (GL) will ultimately reach Menindee Lakes as a result of this flow event.

The expected inflows will be enough to maintain supply to Lower Darling landholders for the next 12-18 months.

Releases for the Lower Darling commenced on 26 March 2020.

The releases are designed so that flows are maintained along the river for as long as possible and water quality impacts are minimised. Poor water quality can impact on both water users and the environment, including native fish populations that remain in refuge pools along the river.

We provided regular updates on the Lower Darling releases during the event. In summary (PDF, 207.35 KB), the government was able to adaptively manage the releases from Menindee Lakes so that poor quality water was flushed from the remnant pools along the Darling River, with no associated fish deaths reported as the water flowed down to Wentworth. As the head of the flow moved down the river, salinity peaked for only a few days and stayed within acceptable levels.

Macquarie Marshes

As a result of the severe drought in northern inland NSW and the wildfires that had burnt sections of the Northern Reedbeds, the Marshes by 2020 were in severe decline. With tributary inflows occurring in the Macquarie River in April, the department delayed initial access to supplementary flows by water users to ensure that sufficient flows could reach the Northern Marshes to inundate the reedbeds.

Fact sheet

This fact sheet provides background information on drought recovery in the Macquarie Marshes. On April 5 2020, the department allowed supplementary access for water users in sections of the Lower Macquarie River system for a limited period of time.

Download the fact sheet (PDF. 919KB)

Peel pipeline rules 2020

Environmental releases under the new Peel pipeline rules 2020

  • Drought conditions over the last several years lead to NSW Government applying emergency short-term temporary measures and then a 19 km permanent underground pipeline from Chaffey Dam to Dungowan to secure water for Tamworth. The pipeline commenced operating on 17 June 2020. It only operates when Chaffey Dam storage is less than 20%.
  • Under the conditions of operation, when storage is below 20%, the only releases from Chaffey Dam allowed is of environmental water managed by the Peel Environmental Water Technical Advisory Group. This group recently ordered 61.5 ML for four days from 30 July 2020 to connected refuge pools for platypus and threatened fish species. These flows also aided the delivery of the minimum daily release of three megalitres, which is required when the dam exceeds 20%.