Lower Balonne flows 2021-22
All the rain and flows in the Condamine-Balonne has primed the lower Balonne rivers, wetlands and floodplains which are rebounding after several years of drought. After two years of wetter conditions in 2020 and 2021, we are seeing the biggest flows into the internationally significant Dharriwaa (Narran Lakes) since 2012. As of June 2022:
- Over 317 gigalitres (GL) of Commonwealth Environmental Water has been accounted for in the Lower Balonne, the most ever used in the northern Murray-Darling Basin.
- More than 127 GL of Commonwealth water for the environment has crossed the Queensland – NSW border.
- Dharriwaa has received over 700 GL of flows since November 2021, one of the biggest inflow volumes in recent decades.
Waterbird breeding at Dharriwaa commenced in January 2022, with over 10,000 nests detected in between January and April.
Falling water levels at the Lakes in February and predicted hot and dry conditions meant waterbirds were at risk of abandoning their nests and eggs. The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office set up a grant program to help maintain water levels by accessing water from private on-farm storages on the Narran River. This was intended to assist waterbirds at Dharriwaa to complete their breeding cycle this season. Local rainfall and heavy falls across Queensland and northern NSW at the end of February and into March meant that water levels at the Lakes stabilised and the grant did not need to go ahead.
Unregulated natural flows and Commonwealth water for the environmental have helped native vegetation, fish, other animals and plants in the Lower Balonne and downstream into the Darling/Baaka to Menindee Lakes and beyond.
While plants are doing better following these flows, some plants in areas that received less water and were drier for longer are still doing it tough. Recovering from seven years of extreme dry takes a while, but the good conditions this year have helped.
2021-22 Lower Balonne flow updates
Lower Balonne flow update 4 – July 2022
The 2021-22 water year has seen the wettest conditions in the Lower Balonne for a decade, as well as the biggest environmental water use ever in the northern Basin. These flows helped support waterbirds breeding at the internationally significant Dharriwaa (Narran Lakes) for the first time since 2012. The recent flows have also assisted native plants to recover after the long dry and helped native fish to move as far downstream as Menindee Lakes.
Lower Balonne flow update 3 – March 2022
Waterbirds are breeding at the internationally significant Dharriwaa (Narran Lakes) in the Lower Balonne, following the best flows in a decade. This is the first time in over 20 years that waterbirds have bred at Dharriwaa, the Gwydir Wetlands and Macquarie Marshes at the same time!
The CEWO and partner agencies are following the flows in the Condamine-Balonne and environmental responses with waterbird, fish and vegetation monitoring on track.
Lower Balonne flow update 2 – January 2022
The rivers and floodplains in the Lower Balonne have received good flows, with the largest volume of Commonwealth environmental water ever delivered (250 GL) in the northern Basin, helping Dharriwaa (Narran Lakes) fill.
Lower Balonne flow update 1 – December 2021 - January 2022
The rivers and floodplains in the Lower Balonne have received good flows, thanks to rainfall, natural flows and Commonwealth water for the environment. Vegetation, waterbirds, native fish and other plants and animals are enjoying these prime conditions and continuing to recover from the big dry. Previous environmental water deliveries and natural flows in 2020 and 2021 set a good starting point for this bumper season.
Almost 250 GL of Commonwealth environmental water has been used in the Condamine-Balonne since July 2021, all since November 2021. Flow harvesting is ongoing in January 2022. These flows have benefitted yellowbelly (‘dhagaay’ in Yuwaalaraay/ Euahlayi language), Murray cod (Guduu in Yuwaalaraay/ Euahlayi language) and other native fish, plants and waterbirds. Flow triggers for waterbird breeding are set to be met later in January and waterbirds are already gathering in key breeding areas at Dharriwaa (Narran Lakes).
Flows from the Condamine-Balonne have also connected with the Barwon-Darling, with the Culgoa contributing around 138 GL since July 2021.
- Read the Lower Balonne flow update #1