The Resumption of Flows Rule, under the amended Barwon-Darling Water Sharing Plan, was activated for the first time on 12 January 2021.
NSW Minister for Water, Property and Housing, Melinda Pavey, said the milestone was a great example of NSW leading the way in achieving a proper balance between social, economic, environmental and cultural water management.
“The NSW Government is implementing some of the most significant reforms in a generation to improve water management across the state,” Mrs Pavey said.
“Active management protects environmental water in the river system by changing how flows are managed, and when licence holders can and cannot access water from the river.
“This will reduce the need for temporary water restrictions to protect environmental flows.”
The Resumption of Flows Rule was incorporated into the Barwon-Darling Unregulated Water Sharing Plan in July 2020, and requires holders of A, B and C class licences not to pump when flows resume along the river after a prolonged dry period.
“We need these new environmental water rules because the old access rules for licence holders did not differentiate between flows from rainfall and releases that benefit the environment,” Mrs Pavey said.
The first flow of water after a dry period can trigger significant social, cultural and environmental outcomes. These flows maintain and connect vital refuge pools for fish and other water dependent biota, improve water quality, and replenish town water supplies.
Prior to the new rules, licence holders could pump when the commence-to-pump threshold was reached, even if part of the flow was released to benefit the environment. This meant held environmental water could be extracted, and may not have benefitted the environment the way it is intended to.
In some cases, its removal from the system prevented flows from passing downstream to replenish the lower reaches of the river and towns such as Wilcannia.
“Including these reforms in the NSW Water Sharing Plan ensures they are enduring and certain,” Mrs Pavey said.
The resumption of flow rule has been triggered due to the flow at Wilcannia being below 200ML/day for 90 days.
Pumping can resume in line with existing access announcements once there is a forecast for river flow at Wilcannia of 400ML/day for a minimum of ten days, or a forecast of a cumulative flow to pass Bourke of 30,000ML.
Information confirming the status of the Resumption of Flows Rule will be available on the WaterNSW water insights portal.
Visit the Resumption of Flow Rule (PDF 340.1 KB) in the Barwon-Darling Water Sharing Plan for more information.