'We've had more rain in the last four days than we had last year'

Barwon flows and water restriction ease in some parts of NSW after rainfall

Weather
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What the rainfall means to NSW.

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Water flowing in the Barwon at Walgett. Photo Manuel Martinez

Water flowing in the Barwon at Walgett. Photo Manuel Martinez

In regions arguably hit hardest by the drought there has been a "real turn" around from the recent rain.

There are flows in the Barwon-Darling system for the first time in years, water restrictions have been eased in some towns while others are still waiting for the heavens to open.

"There has been a real turn around by these extraordinary weather events and what's happening in the Barwon-Darling system is the good news," Tony Webber from Water NSW said.

At Walgett the Barwon is flowing over the town's weir for the first time in a year after between 70mm and 200mm fell in parts of the shire.

"There was a little flow last year but prior to that, the river has been empty in the last two years beside the environmental flows that got to us," Walgett Mayor Manuel Martinez said.

This means the town's water restrictions at level five have been lifted straight away, Mr Martinez said.

"We've had more rain in the last three to four days than we had last year," Mr Martinez said.

He said Lightning Ridge only recorded 76mm for the entire 2019 calendar year.

"We have not seen green tinge in the paddock for the last five years so we hope this is the start for rural families," he said.

"We are seeing it right across the country, which is a blessing, something we take for granted is finally back and it has shown it can rain."

Before the rainfall event, Mr Martinez said there was only three weeks of water left for Collarenebri where an emergency bore system was almost complete to drought proof the community.

"While we would have met the deadline for the system, the heavens opens first at Collarenebri, which flowed onto Walgett, which means we have a reprieve from the emergency bore but the infrastructure will be there for the next drought," Mr Martinez said.

Collarenebri and surrounding areas have received significant rainfall in February including 54mm in the last 24 hours with the current flow at over 10,000 ML/day, Water NSW posted in their operations update.

These flows in the Barwon-Darling have now arrived at Walgett with further inflows from the Namoi River expected to arrive from approximately February 15.

According to Water NSW the initial estimates for the total flow from the Namoi into the Barwon-Darling are approximately 20,000ML to 25,000ML and some flow into Menindee Lakes is possible from this event.

"The Barwon-Darling system is an unregulated river system, which travels through a very arid environment with significant losses from the system due to high evaporation and long flow-travel times," Water NSW said.

"It is very difficult to accurately forecast downstream flows as local conditions can vary significantly over the number of weeks it takes the water to travel along the river.

"In addition, sections of the river have ceased to flow for an extended time and significant losses will occur with wetting up the riverbed along these sections and refilling weir pools and natural holes in the river."

Mr Weber said the flows were not due to rain in Queensland but from local rainfall events and embargoes would remain in the northern basin for irrigation.

At Chaffey Dam there has been a "trickle" with the water levels at 13 per cent and remaining steady while there has been a 2.5 per cent increase at Keepit Dam.

In comparison Warragamba Dam in the Sydney catchment has jumped from 42 per cent to 61 per cent and is rising, Mr Webber said.

Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said while rainfall had filled the dams for some "lucky farmers" and water availability in some catchments had improved, some areas of NSW including the Riverina, Far Western and Central NSW did not even receive 10mm in the past week and had seen very little so far this year.

"It's bloody brilliant to see parts of the state record their best rainfall numbers in years and at this stage of drought, every millimetre of moisture counts," Mr Marshall said.

"However, a drought doesn't break overnight. We need to see consistent widespread falls over many months before we can start talking about recovery."

Water Minister Melinda Pavey said communities that had not seen rain in years finally got some water.

Mrs Pavey said the inflows had been good for farm dams and replenishing stock and domestic water supplies.

But she said unfortunately most of the state's key inland storages had missed out and many regional towns and cities were in desperate need of more inflows.

"Naturally occurring flows are running all the way down the Barwon River from Mungindi to Walgett, with the likelihood the water will also replenish town supply weirs at Brewarrina and Bourke and indications look like it could extend as far as Lake Wetherell and we're hopeful even Menindee Lakes," Mrs Pavey said.

Related:Robertson tops rainfall total in five day event with 698mm

Bushfires ease

Rainfall has helped firefighters to put out more than 30 fires since February 7 - some of those blazes had been burning for weeks and months, the NSW Rural Fire Service said (NSW RFS) on it's Facebook page.

Gospers Mountain, Myall Creek Road, Erskine Creek, Kerry Ridge, Green Watte Creek, Morton and Currowan, which collectively has burned a total of more than 1.5 million hectares of land are now "out".

"This is the most positive news we've had in some time," the NSW RFS post said.

Armidale 

Armidale Regional Council Mayor Simon Murray said the recent rainfall event had very little impact on the inflows in its catchment area with a one per cent increase for Malpas Dam.

At Guyra, where carting water had become the norm, Mr Murray said the Guyra reservoir had filled up before Australia Day and the pipeline that had been installed to pump water between Malpas and the town had stopped.

There has been no changes to water restrictions and the level remains at five, Mr Murray said.

Tenterfield 

First water supplies were critically low due to prolonged dry conditions, then they were battling bushfires, now Tenterfield Mayor Peter Petty says the region looks magnificent.

"If you see Tenterfield at the moment, you'd say what fires, it's magnificent how the country has responded," Mr Petty said.

"It's the best medicine that could be delivered, the town's supply is up to 60 per cent, which is up from 16 per cent late last year."

With 70mm falling on the region, Mr Petty said a report would go to council in two weeks recommending the water restrictions ease from level 4.7 to three.

In the Tenterfield local shire newsletter it states that the boil water alert had been lifted since December 23 and that the council had hired an Osmoflow Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant, which had been delivered to the Water Treatment Plant at the Dam.

The unit replaces the smaller desalination unit provided by Rural Aid in August 2019, which has now been moved to Brewarina, the newsletter states.

"The new plant will treat all water sourced from the bores and strips out all contaminants," the newsletter says.

Related reading: Walgett family back in the business of farming if more rain comes

Tamworth

Tamworth Mayor Col Murray said the rain had made no impact on the water supply with little flow at the Taroona gauge, a four to five per cent increase in Dungowan Dam and no flows above Chaffey Dam at Nundle.

But he said there were good flows downstream at Tamworth going into the Namoi.

"Our water supply is not on the verge of running out with our existing supply expected to last us until July 2021 with no rain or flows," Mr Murray said.

Water restrictions remain at level five.

Related reading: Is this the start of widespread rain?

Goulburn

Water restrictions will be lifted for Goulburn and the Marulan after drenching rain across the weekend after rainfall of between 60mm to 110mm was recorded at Pejar Creek.

Pejar Dam, Sooley Dam and Rossi Weir are now all at 100 per cent capacity, lifting water restriction to green level which is the council's permanent water conservation level under the Water Use Policy.

"A wonderful weekend of rain means we are able to lift water restrictions to our ongoing green level, which is great news," Goulburn Mayor Bob Kirk said.

"Although we still have a long way to go to break this drought this is a huge boost for our farmers and rural residents who have been struggling through a harsh summer with extremely low feed and water."

Under green level restrictions target consumption is 270 litres per person per day, and hand held hoses can be used at any time to water plants or lawns.

Barwon Darling forecast flow estimates

(source Water NSW. This information will be regularly updated as required on its website)

Boorooma: 55,000 - 70,000 ML (total forecast volume including already observed), February 11 to 14 (expected date of flow arrival).

Geera: 50,000 - 65,000ML, February 12 to 17.

Brewarrina: 42,000-58,000 ML, February 15 to 20.

Bourke: 27,000 - 42,000 ML, February 20 to 27.

Louth: 17,000 - 32,000 ML, February 25 to March 2.

Tilpa: 10,000 - 25,000 ML, March 1 to 7.

Wilcannia: 1,000- 15,000 ML, March 10 to 20.

What our readers said

  • Mel Dudley: Wish we would get the nice start. Teased us for the past two days. Keeps going around us or splitting 30 kms out of Deniliquin NSW
  • Mel Lee: Far western NSW ....Omm. Last big rain 16mm in Nov 2019 and them same in Nov 2018. It's painfully dry now. But great to see all these fabulous rain reports can exist again!!!
  • Nell Rain Bruce: 24mm Thursday, 45mm Friday, 48mm Saturday and a massive 200mm Sunday. At Narellan NSW
  • Winn Drinan:150mm in Glendon Brook NSW. Just wonderful.
  • Mi Ashford: 250mm since Thursday North Batemans Bay
  • Patricia Broadhead: 345 mm at Fig Tree NSW Wollongong 2525 not bad at all and still looking like rain
  • Sam Simcox: 98ml in Goulburn in the last 4 days. Has been great.
  • Dianne Ross: 31mm SW of Nyngan
  • Justin Roach: 131mm at Warral(Near Tamworth), NSW over the last 3 days.
  • Roslyn Sephton: Darbalara NSW 32 1/2 mm ( today) and a real mess down the road from all the runoff out of the hills.
  • John Hall: Storms to the east tonight, storms to the north. Had 18 mm but need a lot more. 100mm 15km away. Grateful for 18mm.
  • Tieka Kristinia: 25mm since Thursday in Bredbo.
  • Ann Walker: 25mm in the past week. 10km north east of Tullamore NSW
  • Fiona Avery: 349.1mm from Saturday to 8pm Monday, Old Bemboka Butter Factory -191mm today
  • Steve Cumberland: Droughts a long way from being over,,, but our media and city cousins think it is,, praying for rain. Scone 100mls over the last 5 days look good but I'll everyone need more
  • Nicole O'Connor: Only 8mm in Cowra. Fingers crossed for more.
  • Terry Brown: Macksville 275ml Wednesday to Sunday
  • Gayle Davis: 265mm in my house in Wilton in 24 hours.
  • David Coady: 5 mm at Cargo. Very disappointing.
  • Jenny Saunders: 23mm north of Sofala, NSW.
  • Sarah Harrigan: 9mm in 3 days Reids Flat
  • Nathalie Larue: 9mm in Bathurst NSW
  • Ian Hunt: 100mm Crookwell over 3 days
  • Jenni Jones: 37mm Cooma
  • Jude Beck: 100mm Dunlop Canberra
  • Robert Norman: 20mm Canowindra
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