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Historic deal to deliver water to southern Murray Darling irrigators

A new deal will make it easier to get vital water flows to irrigators in the southern Murray Darling Basin.

Murray Irrigation Limited (MIL) and the New South Wales (NSW) Government have signed an interim Escapes Agreement that will allow WaterNSW to use MIL’s Mulwala canal to deliver water downstream.

This means WaterNSW can bypass the Barmah Choke, a narrow section of the Murray River that restricts the flow to just over 10 GL per day.

The Choke flows through the Barmah-Millewa Forest on the Victoria/NSW border. This is Australia’s largest river redgum forest, and winter and spring flooding caused by the Choke is critical to its health.

However, during the warmer months, river operations aim to keep flows at or below channel capacity to minimise unseasonal flooding, making it challenging to deliver water downstream.

MIL CEO Michael Renehan said the Choke is an inefficient means of transporting water through the southern system.

“The Barmah Choke restricts the amount of water that can be delivered [and increases] the time it takes to deliver water,” he said.

“The water lost is out of the resource pool for allocation and this agreement will have immediate benefits to Murray Irrigation water users.”

With experts from the Bureau of Meteorology predicting the drought in Australia’s east is likely to continue, NSW Minister for Regional Water Niall Blair praised the deal for giving much-needed flexibility to water operators and users.

“With the current drought conditions, water river operators need flexibility to reduce losses in the system,” he said. "All water users, especially NSW irrigators, expect reliable water delivery.

“This agreement is great news in the lead up to summer when demand can peak, as it gives river operators another tool in the water delivery toolbox.”