A NSW inquiry into the augmentation of water was recently held in our region.
Among other sensible, practical comments to the inquiry, a comprehensive 1980 Water Resources Plan on the Lake Mejum Storage Proposal was submitted.
It was shelved in the 80s due to it being perceived as ‘low priority’ as there was no shortage of water back then.
Water is now highly valued and we often experience shortages. Mentioning dams provokes controversy. Politically, dam is a ‘dirty word’. However, we need to address water availability concerns out to 2050.
Perhaps we could call them ‘surge regulators’ instead? That’s definitely a vital function. We have experienced three significant flood events since 2009.
In 2016 from May to October we saw 232,000 megalitres of water wreak havoc through our area just via Mirrool Creek.
There was significantly more than that but it wasn’t possible to accurately measure.
The Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area is an enhanced landscape. With intensified land use and efficiency projects, we have less drainage. However, in significant rain events we have more runoff.
Our current networks aren’t successfully managing or utilising these frequent high, damaging spikes.
Flooding events during 2016 and 2012 cost the region millions in damage to infrastructure, water quality, property, roads, and generally made our lives expensive and difficult.
The 2016 event is estimated to cost of over $9 million just to repair roads. There is no opportunity with grants to upgrade infrastructure - just to repair. So the cycle of damage and repair will continue with the next flood event.
We also experienced disruptions to upstream irrigation supplies this summer and these events are all too regular and negatively impact our productive capacity.
The construction of reservoirs at places like Stony Point, Lake Coolah, Bundidgerry and Mejum may be a practical solution.
They could be designed to mitigate floods, capture rain rejection events and supplementary water.
As the canal systems are often closed for necessary repairs and maintenance during the winter months, available water is often unavailable as there is no external storage capacity.
Farmers are building dams and implementing water efficiency measures, but our various government authorities are lagging behind.
They’re seemingly squandering opportunities for a win/win future because of a perceived ‘dirty word’.
The establishment of well designed, multiple purpose, ‘surge regulators’ means a much better use of available water from highly variable flows.