A progress report from the Northern Basin first flush review has been released today, covering how the implementation of recommendations is proceeding.
The progress report is the result of an independent panel reviewing the Northern Basin flush that took place last year, after the introduction of water restrictions to ensure the flows continued.
The assessment was commissioned after water restrictions were imposed on water take from rivers and floodplains to manage flows across the Northern NSW Murray-Darling Basin, following sudden and significant rainfall across NSW and Queensland in early 2020.
The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment's Director Water Planning Implementation, Allan Raine explained that the review would improve connectivity in low and no-flow times as well as improving the response to future first flush events.
"The NSW government sought to protect the first flows down our northern basin tributaries and the Barwon-Darling using temporary water restrictions," he explained.
"The resultant flows restored town water supplies, provided much-needed stock and domestic water to those who live along the river and provided up to 18 months of supply in Menindee Lakes ... The independent panel, with community input, made a range of important recommendations that we must act on."
The review has recommended a series of adjustments, including formalising arrangements to first flush events, updating flow forecasting models and establishing a diverse 'water reform engagement group' of affected water users.
The progress report released on November 8 notes that two meetings have been held with the new 'connectivity stakeholder reference group' providing advice on connectivity in relation to low and no flow events, and that the flow forecasting models have now been updated.
The recommendations will create triggers to start temporary water restrictions in future periods of drought and dry times to ensure that water is available for critical human and environmental needs all along the Darling and up through the rest of NSW's key waterways.
MP Helen Dalton was not impressed with the response.
"It's hard to believe it's taken the NSW Government a full year to write a six page response to a first flush event that happened in early 2020 ... As expected, their response doesn't really say anything," she said.
"What's needed is law changes and a truly independent water regulator, but we don't have either as yet."
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