System overflows as we still wait for an allocation
‘‘Never in my life time did I expect to see the river system abused like it is. Transmission losses of this magnitude during a drought is totally unacceptable.’’
That is the reaction from Wakool River Association chair John Lolicato as ‘‘politics and outdated river rules’’ result in a wastage of water while Murray Valley farmers still have no access to water to grow food and fibre.
Mr Lolicato has taken aim at what he describes as ‘‘the route cause of river mismanagement’’, after above capacity flowed through the system last week.
Mr Lolicato said concerns have been raised that the high transmission losses are impacting on allocation to NSW Murray general security holders.
He said it is leaving river operators in the difficult position of trying to manage unrealistic expectations of the system and that some believe unrealistic expectations and lack of knowledge of river capacity should be placed on the shoulders of political ambitions.
But he said there is also an issue with miscalculations by river managers.
As a consequence, and following a low inflow period, Mr Lolicato said decision makers now seem prepared to exceed channel capacities to achieve the political goals set for the lower end of the system.
‘‘Management of the Southern Basin Rivers, in particular the Murray and Edward Rivers, can be complicated and politicians fail to recognise this when deals are made to appease voters, protect marginal seats and support downstream investments,’’ Mr Lolicato said.
‘‘There are four natural constraints in the Murray Valley alone which severely impact the amount of water which can be delivered per day.
‘‘The Barmah Choke is the most obvious and once had the capacity to deliver 8,500 megalitres per day but over a number of years this has been reduced to under 8,000
megalitres per day due to the added pressure to deliver high volumes downstream.
‘‘For a number of weeks now the Barmah Choke has been running well above capacity, by up to 2500 megalitres per day. On top of that the Edward River at Stevens Weir was running 500 megalitres per day above capacity.’’
Mr Lolicato said once capacity is exceeded, water runs overbank and into surrounding forests, anabranches, billabongs, and potentially on to private land.
‘‘While this is not always a bad thing, this year it is coming at the expense of food producers who remain on zero allocation as they are paying for the inefficiency of the transmission,’’ Mr Lolicato said.
‘‘It is believed the river is currently running at above capacity heights to fill Lake Victoria, which is just east of the South Australian border between Renmark and Mildura. As of November 12 Lake Victoria was 74 per cent full.
‘‘Filling Lake Victoria is one thing, but currently about 17 per cent of what is going into Lake Victoria is coming back out again via Rufus River.’’
Rufus River is the connection between Lake Victoria back to the Murray to supply South Australia.
Mr Lolicato said 7,740ML/day was entering Lake Victoria last Monday, while 1,354ML/day was being released from Lake Victoria into Rufus River.
‘‘This shows complete disrespect for family farmers and the businesses upstream who rely on them.
‘‘Our food producers have no allocation and temporary water prices are out of reach.
‘‘By my calculations up to an extra 2,500 megalitres per day in transmission losses are occurring in order to fill Lake Victoria.
‘‘I think our politicians need to take responsibility for their unrealistic goals and do not understand or respect the constraints of the system.’’