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Monitoring of the 2019 Northern Fish Flow

Similar to the use of satellite imagery to track a major watering event through the Barwon and Darling Rivers in 2018, the MDBA is working with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) to undertake monitoring and analysis of water for the environment being released to replenish critical waterholes along the Macintyre, Gwydir and Barwon rivers in the Northern Basin.

The Northern Fish Flow event involves the release of 27 to 36 gigalitres of water for the environment (across late April to June) from both Glenlyon and Copeton dams by the Commonwealth and New South Wales (NSW), and is being protected from extraction by the relevant Queensland and NSW agencies.

The MDBA will carry out monitoring of several reaches across the landscape as the flow progresses, checking what proportion of the flow has progressed, where and when. This will then be passed onto relevant authorities for information and use if unauthorised take is suspected. The reach areas the MDBA are monitoring are defined in the map below. This live monitoring will continue for as long as the flow progresses.


Border Rivers reach

The water for the environment releases began on 24 April from Glenlyon Dam and travelled down the Dumaresq River passing Bonshaw Weir and Glenarbon Weir. The flow arrived at Goondiwindi on 7 May and continued down the Macintyre River. During May, the front of the flow passed Boomi Weir and arrived at Kanowna. The releases from the Glenlyon Dam have now been completed, with images for this reach area (1) currently being analysed.

Gwydir flow reach

The water for the environment releases from the Copeton Dam for the Northern Fish Flow event began on 2 May. The flow has now travelled down the Gwydir River, past Pinegrove (near Bingara), Gravesend and Pallamallawa, before it entered the Mehi River and passed Moree and Bronte. On 22 May, the front of the flow reached the gauge at end of the Gwydir system near Collarenebri and the imagery for this reach area is currently being analysed.

Before and after – satellite images

Across the week of 20 May, the flow travelled towards the Barwon River through the Mehi River. The before and after images below show the satellite images from the 18th May, before the flow reached the Mehi, and the after – when water is visible in the Mehi and had reached the Barwon River by the 22 May 2019.

Footage from sites along the flow

Water for the environment released from Copeton Dam on 24 April arrived at the Mehi River and Barwon River junction on 22 May.

Local Collarenebri resident and Walgett Shire Councillor Mr Kelly Smith was on-site to film as the water reached that part of the river on 22 May.

Compliance monitoring

The protected flow for this event will also be monitored by the NSW Natural Resources Access Regulator, using the gauge network and on-the-ground compliance activity. The MDBA will supplement this by monitoring where the front of the flow is in the landscape, coupled with the actual measured flow in the rivers.

Specialised algorithms will be generated from the Sentinel satellite images to determine the presence of water in the landscape. The MDBA will then use this data to monitor how the flow is behaving and how it moves through waterways and the surrounding landscape.

Proactively using satellite imagery to monitor the Northern Fish Flow is helping to ensure there are adequate compliance arrangements in place for the duration of this event and into the future.

More information

Updated: 03 Jul 2019