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Northern Basin First Flush Assessment

Information on the assessment of management of the 2020 Northern Basin First Flush event.

Darling River at The Coach and Horses Campground Wilga Station near Wilcannia

The NSW Government Response

The NSW Government’s Response to the Independent Panel’s final report into the management of the 2020 northern Murray-Darling Basin first flush event is now available.


The NSW Government agrees or agrees in principle with all but one of the Independent Panel’s recommendations in their final report into the management of the 2020 northern Murray-Darling Basin first flush event.

Download the response (PDF. 532KB)

Many of the Panel’s recommendations closely align with or are already being implemented through existing projects being undertaken by the department.

The recommendations from the Independent Panel will be discussed with the community as part of conversations on these existing projects.

The Panel recommends embedding the management of first flush events in the regulatory and policy framework for managing drought. The department will test this to see if it can be practically and effectively implemented and will discuss possible approaches with the community.

The department acknowledges that engagement with First Nations peoples must be improved. The department is committed to improving meaningful ongoing relationships with Aboriginal people. The department recognises that appropriate engagement and involvement of Aboriginal people in decision-making is core to our service delivery.

The department’s progress updates on the implementation of the Independent Panel’s recommendations can be found below.


The Independent Panel’s final report, which assesses management of the 2020 northern Murray-Darling Basin first flush event was released in September.

In March 2020, the NSW Government appointed an Independent Panel to assess the management of the 2020 Northern Basin First Flush event. The final report was submitted on 7 September 2020, and an overview of the final report is also available.

The assessment was commissioned after water restrictions were imposed on water take from rivers and floodplains to manage flows across the Northern NSW Murray-Darling Basin, following significant rainfall across NSW and Queensland in January and February 2020.

Independent Panel members Dr Wendy Craik and Greg Claydon have made recommendations to improve management of future first flush events, including with regard to:

  • the communication of water restrictions to water users and the public
  • decision making processes, including matters considered when applying the public interest test; and
  • how prepared the Department of Planning and Environment - Water, WaterNSW and the Natural Resources Access Regulator were to manage the event.

As part of the assessment, the Independent Panel sought information from relevant state and federal agencies, a non-government water user reference group with representatives from industry, environmental interests, Aboriginal communities and Councils, and carried out two rounds of public consultation.

Outcomes of public exhibition

The Independent Panel sought feedback from the public during initial public consultation carried out during 2020.

Water user reference group

A water user reference group was set up to provide advice to the Panel, particularly on improvements to communications with water users and the public. The group met on seven occasions with the Independent Panel throughout the assessment.

Meeting communiques:

More information

  • Targets and Principles – information about the triggers and principles (PDF, 363.21 KB) which were used to determine when and how to apply temporary water restrictions to river and overland flows from January to the end of March 2020 in the Northern NSW Basin.
  • Fact sheets on Northern Basin and Barwon-Darling restrictions on river and overland flows – a series of fact sheets explaining the application of the temporary water restrictions throughout the first flush event and a list of the exemptions that applied.
  • Overview of the outcomes of the Northern Basin restrictionsinformation on some of the initial benefits of how the first flush was managed.
  • Assessment of take and protection during first flush flows in the Northern Basin – a report (PDF, 1495.35 KB) including the water balance for the first flush event.