WATERNSW is operating under a “Sahara scenario” as zero water flows into the Namoi Valley system.
But there will be enough water for “critical needs” into 2020: Manilla and Barraba town water, and stock and domestic demands.
That was one key message at a Manilla meeting this afternoon for stakeholders as dam levels continue to plummet.
The meeting was the first of three to be held this week in the valley, covering recent operations out of Split Rock and Keepit dams, and what the future could hold.
System operation executive manager Adrian Langdon said there had been “record low inflows into the Namoi system in last 12 months” – and zero in the past six months.
“Catchments are still dry, so any rain we’re getting at the moment is not leading to any run-off. And it’s the same all over NSW … we need above-average rainfall to get the system flowing,” he said.
Another spokesperson said the Namoi was in “uncharted territory” and, of all NSW, was feeling the impact of drought “the most acutely”.
State of dams
Mr Langdon said the two dams held a total of about 39 gigalitres – 4 per cent of their combined capacity of 822GL.
A water transfer from Split Rock to Keepit, which began in October, will leave Split Rock at less than 5 per cent – enough to meet critical needs – and a block release from Keepit had been delivering water to licence holders.
Temporary restrictions to 85 per cent of their orders were lifted last week because recent rain meant less water lost in transmission.
Mr Langdon said WaterNSW had the challenge of finding “the best and most efficient ways” to deliver.
One was a large release that would sustain a 50 per cent loss, rather than regular smaller releases that would sustain 30 per cent losses.
Manilla lucerne farmers Keith and Sharon Jones were among the dozens of people who attended.
She said they were “not big irrigators”, but the meeting had been “very informative”.
“We all have to appreciate that there are dozens of communities sharing the same water system,” she said.
“These poor buggers are doing their best to share out a very limited water supply in a record drought.
“Unless they can make it rain, they just can’t pull water out of a hat.”