The review of a major environmental flow in the northern Murray–Darling Basin has found the water made its way unhindered through the Barwon–Darling thanks to temporary restrictions on water extraction imposed by the NSW Government and enforced by the NSW Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR).
The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) head of Compliance Russell James said the Review of the Northern Rivers Connectivity Event during the Temporary Water Restrictions was the first of its kind by the MDBA to examine whether the measures in place to ensure environmental flows passed down the river were effective.
"The joint review by the MDBA and the NSW Natural Resources Access Regulator showed us that the compliance measures and enforcement of rules to protect water for the environment were successful for the event in April to June 2018 and bode well for future actions under the Basin Plan," Mr James said.
"The community needs to be confident that water is managed fairly and according to the rules. This important review was a true test of the effectiveness of those arrangements, and demonstrates to us that water intended for the environment was effectively delivered right along the system."
The large-scale environmental watering event from April to June 2018 was conducted to improve the health of rivers under stress from extremely dry conditions in the northern Basin.
It involved releasing water managed by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (25 gigalitres) and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (7.2 gigalitres) from the Copeton and Glenlyon dams into the Gwydir and Border rivers, which then flow into the Barwon–Darling and to Menindee Lakes in the state's south-west.
The passage of water was tracked by the MDBA using satellite technology and the temporary water restriction on irrigation water diversions was enforced by the newly formed NSW NRAR.
NRAR's Chief Regulatory Officer Grant Barnes said the temporary water restriction was closely monitored by compliance officers who conducted property inspections along the Barwon–Darling River to ensure people were doing the right thing.
"On assessing the effectiveness of our compliance arrangements, the review found that NRAR is set up to deal appropriately with operations of this kind," Mr Barnes said.
"We are pleased to report that no theft of water was detected, and all water users were cooperative during this watering event.
"The success of the exercise was all the more impressive given NRAR was officially established on the day before operations for the watering activity began.
"NRAR will deliver further compliance measures to ensure the Basin Plan is implemented in good faith, for the future health of the environment, communities and industries across the Basin."
Members of the public are encouraged to report any allegations of non-compliance to relevant state authorities, or through the 'Report a breach' page on the MDBA website.
The Review of the Northern Rivers Connectivity Event during the Temporary Water Restrictions is on the MDBA website at www.mdba.gov.au/publications/mdba-reports/audit-assurance