NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey has said they will be making decisions on how to manage the inflows expected to hit the Menindee system in the coming weeks, but the first objective will be to improve water supplies for the Lower Darling communities and ensure the top two lakes are filled.
A spokesperson for the Minister said it would be weeks before flood waters from the Northern Basin arrived into the Menindee Lakes and at this stage forecasted inflows were still unclear.
"The size of the inflows will ultimately decide whether water is diverted into Lake Menindee or passed through the Lakes system to count towards NSW Murray general security allocations," the spokesperson said.
Currently control of the water in Menindee Lakes is handed over to the Murray Darling Basin Authority from NSW when the total volume in the Lakes system reaches 640 gigalitres.
Speculators have predicted that the 640GL trigger point could be reached when the floodwaters arrive. For this to occur more than 300GL would need to make it to the lakes, which are currently sitting at a total volume of 300GL, 17 per cent full.
The last time the MDBA had control of the lake system was between mid-October 2016 to mid-December 2017.
During that period the MDBA oversaw the release of 468GL for water user entitlements and 225GL for the environment and they estimated 800GL was lost to evaporation and seepage.
Barwon MP Roy Butler has called on Mrs Pavey to review the 640GL trigger point and said he wanted to see Menindee maintained as a storage for the Lower Darling.
"We don't want to see another example of 2016/17 where we were jamming water down onto a flooded Murray," Mr Butler said.
In response a spokesperson for the Minister said it should come as no surprise to Mr Butler that constituents the Murray electorate want to see the water in Menindee count towards their allocations.
"It can take well over a hundred gigalitres to 'wet up' the bed of Lake Menindee and upwards of 300 gigalitres cannot be released from Lake Menindee as it is 'dead storage'," they stated.
"However, locals are keen to see water return to Lake Menindee and provide some water security.
"On the other hand 300 gigalitres in the NSW Murray would see the Barmah Millewa account paid off and General Security allocations would again be possible this season, as there can be no improvement in NSW Murray General Security entitlements until the Barmah Millewa debt is paid off."
The 'exceptional circumstances' trigger under the Barmah Millewa Environmental Watering Act (BMEWA) was claimed by NSW due to low flows, but according the water sharing rules, payback of the borrowed water begins when general security allocation reaches 50 per cent of entitlement - which it did in February this year.
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