A NSW Government website

Drought recovery

North-west flows in early 2020

How we managed inflows from widespread rainfall over north-west NSW and southern Queensland during January and March 2020.

Flows during 2017 – 2020

From 2017 until the rains in early 2020, northern inland New South Wales had been experiencing record drought conditions. As waterbodies dried and contracted, many impacts were felt. As water became scarce and rivers stopped flowing:

  • The rivers and creeks became a line of stranded, stagnating pools rather than connected, flowing watercourses.
  • Many regional towns and villages had to rely on emergency groundwater bores or water carting to maintain basic domestic supply.
  • Graziers had to de-stock or truck in water and fodder.
  • Many industries had to reduce production or invest in alternative water supplies.
  • Many irrigators had very limited or no access to water for extended periods, in some cases for years.
  • Water quality had deteriorated as algae bloomed, salinity levels increased, and the remaining refuge pools formed layers that became stagnant, endangering fish and other organisms.
  • Large-scale fish deaths occurred in some areas.
  • Vegetation that relies on river flows and floods also suffered.

In late January and February significant rain fell in parts of north-west New South Wales and southern Queensland. The department issued section 324 orders in the NSW Northern Basin to restrict take of the subsequent flows to meet critical human and environmental water needs. This page provides information about some of the outcomes of the event.

Learn about the rain that caused substantial flows in the North-west.

(temporary restrictions)

The temporary water restrictions were managed using a set of principles and targets in the region.

Read about water balance, supplementary water and water quality.

Tracking water capture in on-farm storages during the North-west flows in 2020.

How groundwater resources responded to rainfall during the North-west flows in 2020.

Rainfall and flow events improve the health of the environment. Learn more about fish, wetlands and riparian habitats.