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Published: 06 March 2019   •   Media release

Planning to manage the heightened probability of low water availability next summer is already underway the head of the Murray–Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) River Management Division, Andrew Reynolds, told the ABARES National Outlook Conference today.

"Northern parts of the Murray–Darling Basin have experienced the lowest rainfall on record in the past two years and areas in the south have also experienced severe deficiencies, especially on the New South Wales side of the River Murray," Mr Reynolds said.

"Unsurprisingly, that lack of rainfall has translated into lower inflows and lower storage levels across the Basin.

"The advice from the Bureau of Meteorology means we can’t bank on increased or even average rainfall this coming winter. In fact, if anything, it’s likely to be drier so any rain that does fall does so into dry catchments which in turn reduces inflows to storages. 

"The MDBA’s role in the southern connected Basin is to share the water between Victoria and New South Wales who then supply South Australia its share.

"Before water is available for the states we need to make sure there is enough to run the system and to support critical human water needs.

"The states then plan how to use their share, according to their state entitlement frameworks, which includes how much they can allocate to individual water entitlement holders.

"The job of the states to share water between their water users will be a lot easier next water year if we’re lucky enough to have significant rainfall this coming winter and spring.

"However, if it is dry it gets harder as we’re working from a lower storage base.

"Our river management is now focussed on conserving water as best we can with Lake Dartmouth, our main drought storage, currently holding about a third of all water available in the Basin.

"It’s just too early to forecast the impact of the current conditions on next year’s allocations.

"However, if it does stay dry I would expect a greater reliance across the board on buying and selling temporary water on the water market, as well as a greater reliance on carry-over provisions, which allow entitlement holders with allocations to save some of their water this year to use next year."

More information about how water is shared in the Murray–Darling Basin is available on the MDBA website.

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