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Parched marshlands in danger due to water shortages

Daily Liberal Daniel Sharkie 15/5/20

Mel Gray, a representative of the Healthy Rivers Dubbo group has called on the state government to make changes to their current involvement in the Murray-Darling basin plan in order to avoid passing beyond a ‘tipping point’ with regards to the river system.

“We’re going to need tighter rules in our water sharing plan that protect those vital first flows,” Ms Gray said.

“We’re facing a future where water is going to be more scarce than ever before in the Macquarie valley, there was a report by the state government in 2013 that told us we would have 30 percent less potable water by 2030, and unfortunately, those predictions seem to be an underestimation.”

While the group have criticised the recent proposal to create a re-regulating weir between Narromine and Warren in recent weeks, they also remain opposed to what they consider high rates of water extraction from the system.

“This is how we got into the situation that we’re in now in the first place,” Ms Gray said.

Ms Gray says that maintaining the current rate of extraction, and committing to the weir, will exacerbate the current situation and cause possibly fatal damage to the Macquarie marsh lands ecosystem.

“It’s not a good idea to extract further water from an already stressed system,” Ms Gray said.

Member for Dubbo, Dugald Saunders said that ensuring the environmental health of the Murray-Darling basin remained the goal of the government’s participation in the Murray-Darling plan.

“For my part I will continue to work with all water users and interests, including recreational users, in the Dubbo electorate to find the best balance in ensuring the river habitat is sustained while commercial agricultural producers are given the opportunity to generate income and jobs for this region,” Mr Saunders said.

He welcomed the recent wet weather as a possible salve.

“The extreme drought of the past three years has impacted on the availability of water for all users including the environment generally, and the marshes specifically,” Mr Saunders said.

“Like all residents of this region I hope the recent return to wetter weather continues to put water into the dam and brings widespread benefit to the environment, farming families and our local communities.”

More questions for Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders

In The Daily Liberal Dubbo Catches: Local MP on Gin Gin Weir 12/5, Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders claimed “Reducing the water needed to be released from Burrendong dam to supply towns, farmers, stock and domestic users and irrigators will mean in increase in overall water allocations – including environmental allocations – providing further benefit [to] the Macquarie Marshes.”

In response, Healthy Rivers Dubbo has asked for some clarification:

Mr Saunders, can you please explain to your electorate how this weir, which if built will mean an increase in overall allocations (and therefore extraction) could possibly provide further benefit to the Macquarie Marshes?

Water (operational surplus) that currently flows through Warren to the Creeks, Marshes, Lower Macquarie and Barwon Darling will be caught by the weir. From this water, most will be for irrigation, and a little will be for the environment.

Mr Saunders, can you please explain how less water will provide further benefit to the Macquarie Marshes?

Last Wednesday we learnt how the Macquarie Marshes is one of the top two candidates in the Murray Darling Basin for a critically endangered ecological community listing. Staff were told by officials that the Federal Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, would be unlikely to support the inclusion, and the recommendation was not made.

Knowing this, how can you continue to support a project that will place further pressure on the Ramsar listed, internationally significant Macquarie Marshes?

 

Melissa Gray

Convenor, Healthy Rivers Dubbo

Daily Liberal 16/6 YOUR SAY

 

12/5/2020

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28/4/2020

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Coalition ignore Marshes for CRITICALLY ENDANGERED listing, while NSW plan to take even more water.

A clear candidate for assessment for a critically endangered listing, the “wetland and inner floodplain of the Macquarie Marshes” was one of two ecological communities not put forward for a listing as environment minister, Sussan Ley, was “unlikely to support” their inclusion on the 2019 list of species and habitats under consideration for protection.

Listed as critically endangered by then environment minister Mark Butler in the final days of the Labor government in 2013, after the Coalition won government, both listings were disallowed under the new environment minister, Greg Hunt.

“Science, not politics, should be the only basis for listings but it’s clear that as it stands this isn’t always the case,”

Even with good inflows in early 2020, so much water from the first flows was extracted and diverted by floodplain harvesting that the environmental demands for water in the Macquarie Marshes is currently classified as HIGH.

In this light, plans for a re regulating weir at Gin Gin which will allow even more water to be extracted upstream of the Marshes border on immoral.

Murray-Darling systems not assessed for endangered listing after officials warned Coalition would not support it

 

 

 

 

 

Environmental concerns only growing – Healthy Rivers Dubbo

Daily Liberal Healthy Rivers Dubbo 6/5/2020

The Macquarie is a vital tributary of the Barwon Darling Rivers, it’s winter and spring inflows very welcome in the Barwon at a time when the monsoon fed rivers of the north are contributing less water.

Native fish need the Macquarie and Barwon to connect – from the Barwon Darling they pick up the scent of an in flowing tributary river, and make their way upstream into the rich feeding grounds of the Macquarie Marshes, the river and creeks.

It’s very alarming to read the outgoing WaterNSW CEO David Harris (Daily Liberal 1 May 2020) attempt to address environmental concerns about the proposed re regulating weir at Gin Gin by saying that flows will be caught that would otherwise flow ‘to the end of the system’. It is vital that water does flow to the end of the system, unimpeded by a new dam structure.

David Harris’ Letter to the Editor WaterNSW addresses environmental concerns has only served to increase the communities concerns. How can we trust a corporation that considers stopping water flowing to the end of the river is a benefit to the environment?

Healthy Rivers Dubbo is a grass roots community group dedicated to providing a strong voice for our local rivers, aquifers and wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin for the benefit of wildlife, plants and people. We pay our respects to Elders past present and emerging, and acknowledge this land was never ceded.

Melissa Gray

Convenor, Healthy Rivers Dubbo

 

 

Image: confluence of the Macquarie and Bogan Rivers

More questions raised about river re-regulating storage project – Inland Rivers Network

Firstly, the explanation about capturing water that currently flows to the end of the system is of great concern. The end of the Macquarie River connects up with the Darling River system.

Any flows that reach the Darling are very important for providing native fish passage up into the Macquarie and for providing important downstream water.

Rainfall rejections generally happen when the system is wetted up and lots of natural triggers have been set off for fish, water birds, frogs, water plants and the many other species that have rainfall responses.

The retention of these flows in the proposed new storage will impact on the health of the downstream environment all the way to the Darling and beyond. We do not understand why the term storage is different to a dam.

Secondly, the environmental water allowances held in Burrendong Dam are not the only water that is important to river health. Flows that occur naturally, with rainfall, including from tributaries that enter the Macquarie downstream of Burrendong have more nutrients, oxygen and no cold water pollution. They are much healthier for the river system and for fish.

WaterNSW CEO David Harris has failed to inform the public about the full range of river operations. This includes meeting water orders from tributary inflows, rather than releasing the orders from Burrendong. This water is likely to be stored in the proposed new structure, thus contradicting the information that the weir will not stop tributary flows.

The environmental impacts of this new large instream structure on the Macquarie River are not likely to be mitigated or offset. The river system including the internationally significant Macquarie Marshes will suffer the consequences.

The Inland Rivers Network (“IRN”) is a coalition of environment groups and individuals that has been advocating for healthy rivers, wetlands and groundwater in the Murray-Darling Basin since 1991.

 

Ann Reeves

Hon Secretary

Inland Rivers Network

 

 

 

 

 

How can we trust WaterNSW?

The Murray Cod With Dry Backs!

Releases of environmental water are designed carefully, so that natural conditions can be replicated to facilitate the desired outcomes. When Cod are on the nest, they need steady water heights. It’s important that when they find a nest site they like, the Cod feel safe and have a good experience while on the nest, they tend to return to the same nest site if they feel safe.  Environmental water releases are designed with a ‘stable Cod flow’ portion from mid September to mid November. Then a little peak to disperse the eggs.

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During the ‘stable Cod flow’ it’s very important that the daily flow rate for Held and Planned environmental water be complied with.

During the 2019 water year, WaterNSW used rainfall predictions in the valley to reduce the daily flow rate, expecting catchment rainfall would meet the target flow rate at the end of the system (Marebone). The rain did not come, and there were a few significant ‘holes’ in the event.

By failing to comply with the daily flow rate, WaterNSW showed that their priorities were not in line with environmental outcomes. They seemed to overlook the importance of the ‘stable cod flow’ phase of the event, and the consequences to Cod sitting on the nest with their backs out of the water.

The Missing Fishways!

In 2011, Burrendong wall was upgraded for safety reasons, and while they were at it, another 1.8 meters was added to the height. Any time a structure in a river is modified, an environmental offset must be delivered. So, back in 2011, WaterNSW was legally obliged to construct three fishways in the Wambuul Macquarie River – at Gin Gin weir, Gunningbah offtake and Marebone break.

Nearly ten years later, and native fish in the Macquarie River are still banging their heads against a wall. In 2014, then NSW water minister Katrina Hodgkinson put the projects on hold, citing the costs as the reason. After some pressure from the community in late 2019, a promise has been made by WaterNSW to submit the fishways to IPART for funding in the 2022-2025 period – we’ll believe it when we see it.

WaterNSW have proved they are not motivated by an interest in improving fish passage in the Macquarie River. They are obliged to include a fish passage structure in the design of the re regulating weir that is being planned for Gin Gin, however if they cared about native fish in the Macquarie, they would have met their legal and moral obligation and built one at the site nearly a decade ago.

The Orange Pipeline Promises!

More broken promises, this time upstream of Burrendong where the Macquarie River to Orange pipeline was built. The agreement was that if the river fell below 108 megalitres a day flow, the pumps would be stopped. Jump forward to 2019 and the rules have been changed, promises broken. Going against the agreements made, pumping is now allowed when flows in the Macquarie are as low as 38 megalitres a day, when the river is all but a series of pools.

Once it’s built, anything goes!

It is startling to learn that while projects might require environmental assessment to get approval once they are built, the rules can be changed with no need for any environmental assessment of the impact of the new conditions.

If the proposed re regulating weir at Gin Gin is approved and built, WaterNSW have proven they cannot be trusted to keep any promises that they make to get the project approved.

Which Pie Graph is Baked?

A lack of transparency in water management was one of the central findings of the scathing Ken Matthews Report 2017, instigated by the NSW Government following the startling revelations of Four Corners episode ‘Pumped’ in July of that year. WaterNSW reports are notoriously difficult to interpret, and far from transparent.

In early 2020, WaterNSW presented a pie graph titled ‘Where the water went’ to the public during a drought update seminar. The generalised labels don’t clearly explain that this graph refers to natural flows as well as dam releases, and it captures a time in 2016 when there was a lot of water around.

This graph also fails to explain that vast, unmetered, volumes of water was diverted by way of floodplain harvesting infrastructure into private and corporate on-farm dams for free. WaterNSW still stubbornly withhold what volumes of water have been withheld from the river by floodplain harvesting from the public.

The WaterNSW graph was so misleading, a concerned citizen interpreted from it that 78% of water released from Burrendong in the two years 2017-2019 was for the environment. The actual figures of water ordered and released from Burrendong are startlingly different, showing that only 26% was ordered by environmental water holders, 45% was released for irrigation, with the other 29% being used for operations, towns water supply, stock and domestic and high security in the regulated section of the Macquarie.

202003 WaterNSW Pie Graph -1Truth Pie

What’s in a Name?

We have heard from WaterNSW that they will not capture tributary flows with their enormous new re regulating weir. But wait! What is this on page 16 of their Scoping Report?

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The tricky bit here is that WaterNSW consider some tributary inflows that enter the Macquarie below Burrendong as dam releases, even though they are not released from the dam.

What? How can that make sense? Flows from the Little, Bell, Talbragar, Coolbaggie and the like are not released from Burrendong dam, so how can WaterNSW consider them to be? They just do, it suits their purpose.

We’re not that gullible. WaterNSW cannot be trusted.