20 March 2017
Member for Barwon, Kevin Humphries is setting the scene for the next stage of water reform in the Far West, putting on the table an outline to deliver Stage 3.
Stage 1 was always about fast tracking an emergency water back-up supply for Broken Hill, which was completed with works at the interconnecting channel at Copi Hollow and water bores. With that complete, work also began on the big project, Stage 2 and the long term security of Broken Hill’s water supply, to be achieved by the construction of the Murray/Broken Hill water pipeline.
With that project well underway and tenders for construction being sought by the Project Manager, Water NSW, it is now time to progress with Stage 3.
I have proposed with authorities for some time, Stage 3. The reconfiguration for the Menindee-Cawndilla system, which will deliver greater security for the local/regional community, based on greater water retention in Lake Menindee.
I have proposed that funding from the Federal Government could be used to build a substantial regulator, located at Morton Boolka, controlling flows between Lake Menindee and Lake Cawndilla.
During large flood intakes into the lakes, flows would continue as normal with the regulator closed off at Morton Boolka once Lake Cawndilla is full.
Water in Lake Menindee would be retained at 80 per cent with the top 20 per cent allocated as part of down-stream negotiated requirements.
During smaller intakes into the Lakes, the regulator would remain closed with a concentration of water stored in Lake Menindee.
If Lake Menindee achieves 80 per cent plus storage levels, the trigger for flow-through would apply to cater for further down-stream requirements.
While the detail and flow-through rules need greater discussion, it is a pathway I will be pursuing with my colleagues in the NSW Government, the Federal Government and the MDBA.
In effect, this project would see Lake Menindee categorised as part of the top lake system with Pamamaroo and Wetherell.
The advantage is far greater water security for the Menindee precinct which would sustain the local amenity, create opportunities for tourism growth, alternative high value agriculture and significant environmental and cultural outcomes.
The benefit for downstream users is that they would see more consistent flows in the Lower Darling and potentially South Australian users as well.
I am not interested in getting bogged down on the issue of evaporation. This project has a much broader context.
My proposal replaces the 640-480 rule which is contentious, with a simple re-allocation; Lake Menindee at 80 per cent or less remains in NSW control with only minor downstream requirements. The top 20 per cent (200 GL) given over to downstream and end of system flow. Cawndilla would be given over to MDBA (750 GL) to meet further end of system requirements if that is their intention. This would require further works at the Pinnelco Channel which connects Cawndilla back to the Lower Darling.
Better outcomes for all can be achieved by managing water more efficiently when it is available, with infrastructure improvements and water management rules that better reflect current opportunities and future demands.
It is time to drill down in the detail and get on with Stage 3 of the water journey for the Far West that I outlined with the community three years ago.
More of the same ‘boom and bust’ cycle is not an acceptable outcome.
The proposal has been discussed at a preliminary level with local water advocates and representatives and we are keen to work together and advance the proposition with all relevant authorities and stakeholders.
NB: Stage 4 would see the development of the Menindee Master Plan aiming to capitalise on local opportunities such as eco and cultural tourism and agriculture.