The NSW Government has requested WaterNSW implement restrictions on water accounts for Lower Darling customers.

The Temporary Water Restriction Order restricts the use of any available water to critical human needs and permanent plantings, plus the use of high security water from Copi Hollow.

There is a severe water shortage in the Lower Darling and WaterNSW has implemented a number of contingency measures, including minimising releases, pumping water to the most efficient storage locations, isolating Copi Hollow from Lake Pamamaroo and pumping it to maximum capacity (about 12 GL), and constructing block banks in the Lower Darling to create small pools of critical water.

But, unfortunately, drought conditions have continued, Lake Pamamaroo is forecast to empty and releases from the storages will soon cease.

“Remaining water must be dedicated to the highest priority needs of town water supply, stock and domestic and permanent plantings,” authorities say.

“These measures will help to extend water supply for Broken Hill until the pipeline from Wentworth is operating in the first half of 2019.”

Some very limited irrigation supply will be available to support primarily permanent plantings during the summer months, but these will be dependent upon future inflows, after ensuring enough water is first available to meet critical human and environmental water needs.

“This drought is the worst on record across NSW and the Darling River and its catchments have been one of the regions most impacted by these harsh conditions,” said Adrian Langdon, WaterNSW’s executive manager of System Operation & Asset Maintenance.

“While we understand temporary pumping restrictions have a significant impact on customers’ business plans, it is unfortunately necessary in this instance. The Menindee lakes are currently at 3 per cent of capacity and outlook remains bleak.

“WaterNSW has consulted regularly with Lower Darling customers and community throughout the drought and worked diligently with government to preserve available water for as long as possible.

“This has included building two block banks downstream of Pooncarie, at Jamesville and Ashvale. Two more have been constructed above Pooncarie, at Karoola and Court Nareen.

“Once the upper two block banks are filled with remaining supplies from Pamamaroo in coming weeks, releases from the Menindee system will cease, as will flow below Weir 32, the headwater of the Lower Darling.”

Water use will be restricted to:

  • town water supply
  • domestic use
  • stock watering
  • irrigation of existing permanent plantings such as vineyards and orchards
  • any other irrigation, but only using water taken from Copi Hollow, up to a maximum limit of 500 megalitres, and only where the water is taken under the authority of a regulated river (high security) access licence

The order will expire on 30 June 2019, unless modified or cancelled due to changes to water availability.