Talking Water: Something in Menindee pipeline?

In stark contrast to NSW government’s record for delivering infrastructure projects, there is an urgency in constructing the Broken Hill pipeline.

The proposed 300km pipeline has been controversial from its inception with community protests, even from Broken Hill residents, falling on deaf government ears.

The take-off site is on the Murray immediately upstream from the Darling junction, incorporating 10 major direction changes, half of which make a 90 degree turn.

Along with this there are two under water crossings, one under the Darling River. The extra kilometres and unnecessary turns will increase energy requirements and the entire project will cost around $500 million dollars, if we are lucky.

Historically, Broken Hill and Menindee have relied and survived on water reservoirs at the Menindee Lakes.

But with the current management mindset from the state and federal governments it would appear the Lower Darling and Menindee Lakes are being hastily decommissioned as they continue to drain the lakes and put those reliant on this water into yet another man-made drought.

The project defies logic, with little consultation and vital information being labelled “commercial in confidence”.


A cynic could be excused for thinking that this is an extravagant waste of hard earned tax payer’s dollars.

Other water infrastructure projects in the electorate of Murray such as the Moama-Echuca bridge have been on the drawing board for decades and governments have made procrastination an art form with still not a sod turned and nothing delivered.

So why the pipeline hurry?

With the March 2019 state election, the uncharacteristic and accelerated pace will make the pipeline decision irreversible.

It might be that inflows into Menindee may be limited due to planned upstream diversions as the media and various inquiries begin to reveal the water rule changes, inadequacies of water compliance and the lack of metering.

Or perhaps because bureaucracies have inappropriately drained the Menindee Lakes downstream to South Australia twice in recent years.

To add insult to injury the pipeline will not connect stock and domestic water to station country where an estimated 300,000 sheep find their home.

The Lower Darling and Menindee Lakes were home to one of the largest and diverse fish and bird breeding habitats but not anymore.

The ecology and people are being sacrificed as the Murray Darling Plan continues to pick winners and losers in this impractical and hurried plan.


Helen Dalton and Deb Buller are MIA-based irrigators offering their perspective on water issues in a fortnightly column for Fairfax Media.