A message from Moree mayor Katrina Humphries regarding water

Katrina Humphries.

Katrina Humphries.

How wonderful the rains have been.

As the first high flows occur in many years, it is so important that the waters be allowed to flow through the river systems of the northern basin and that our small communities and residents along our river system receive a long awaited benefit from the wonderful summer rains.

At Council, we are having regard to these flows in our management of water supply, particularly for Boggabilla, Mungindi and Weemelah. Recent rainfall is bringing relief to these communities.

Since August last year, our Council has imposed water restrictions on these communities due to insufficient water supply from river flows. This culminated in the imposition of Level Five Water Restrictions at the start of this calendar year.

Attached is our advice to these communities as at Friday February 14, 2020 and I am delighted to say, that as of today, restrictions at Weemelah will be fully removed. With flows anticipated in the Macintyre River and the Barwon River in coming weeks, our Council will be regularly assessing the water supply available through these river systems for Boggabilla and Mungindi with a view to reducing and ultimately removing the restrictions currently in place (if practicable).

Once flows arrive, the inevitable flushing process of the parched river system will take place before these flows can be used to supplement the town water supply. But the existence of these flows from the recent large rain events has made this all possible.

Downstream communities outside of the Moree Plains Shire are also able to relish this wonderful flow and the future looks good, when we have our next good rainfall, for water to continue its path west as all the billabongs, gullys and tributaries will be filled.

For many years we have had water sharing plans, currently many of these plans have been embargoed to allow the system to be flushed successfully. In some cases, the trigger heights for pumping have been reached (as is apparent from data collected by Water NSW and available publicly on its website) and even exceeded, allowing some entitlements to be provided for and some pumping to occur, in confined circumstances or in other states.

Personally, I have always believed in the common law right to use what rain falls on your land and overland flows should be able to be harvested without prejudicing the overall benefit to the river system.

I commend the Minister for Water lifting this embargo. The biggest tragedy of the management of this drought is that we do not have more off stream storages to hold more of this water to ensure regular flows down our river systems in dry times.

We have seen the storm water not captured in the big urban areas and this breaks my heart and the fact that we have not been able to desilt and deepen existing waterholes in our creeks, rivers and billabongs successfully and legally in dry times does not make sense.

Therefore, I call for legislation to allow for the widening, deepening and desilting and general maintenance (including, for example, sapling and invasive species removal in our waterways) of our existing waterholes and storages to be instigated so the next time we have a drought, this work can be done without hesitation or ineffective interference and create a massive riverine storage system by creating a chain of deep waterholes as opposed to the chain on ponds that is the norm currently in our tributaries.

This would allow for inland NSW and associated States to have the capacity to store for the future of all our river reliant communities is created.

The opportunity for this to happen in our area now has passed, and I wish I had pushed harder for this to happen before October last year, but we must plan now for the future.

I believe we have the capacity to store water for stock and domestic purposes within our systems that could potentially store more water than our dams, thus allowing for everyone to be catered for.

The irrigation industry could then go back to relying on the dams that were built for irrigation purposes and river reliant communities would have surety of supply as water would be able to be pumped from big waterholes downstream.

However, now we have a life saving flow that will rightfully make its ways west.