The Menindee Lakes are located on the lower section of the Darling River in far western New South Wales (NSW). They are one of a number of storages in the River Murray water supply system that provides water to NSW, Victoria and South Australia. The Lakes are also the principal water supply storage for the City of Broken Hill.
In the 1950s and in the 1960s, weirs, regulators, levees and channels were built to enhance the ability of the Lakes to store and release water. However, the Menindee Lakes are shallow and are located in a hot, windy, semi-arid environment, and experience average annual evaporation losses of over 400 GL of water per year.
The NSW and Australian Governments are developing a project to improve the efficiency of the operation of the Lakes as a water storage. The objective of the project, involving changes to infrastructure and operational arrangements, is to reduce the volume of water that evaporates from the Lakes each year while securing Broken Hill's water supply and protecting the local environment and heritage.
View the Project Agreement between the Australian and NSW governments: Project Agreement for Menindee Lakes Project Management (PDF 273 KB).
Darling River Water Savings Project—Part B study
In March 2010, the Australian and NSW Governments completed the Darling River Water Savings Project (DRWSP) Part B study. This jointly funded study investigated options to reduce evaporation at Menindee Lakes, improve the water supply and management of the Darling River system, and secure Broken Hill's water supply. See Darling River Water Savings Project (DRWSP) Part B Study: Final Report
Prior to this study, the Darling River Water Savings Project - Part A study undertook preliminary investigations on potential water saving schemes including possible changes to the operation of the Menindee Lakes, securing water supply for Broken Hill and high security users, increasing water use efficiency and providing water for the environment. See Darling River Water Savings Project - Part A study
Darling Water Savings: Options for Environmental Filling No Impacts, Version 2
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has undertaken a number of hydrological modelling studies to identify management options for Menindee Lakes that would result in no impact on downstream users but maximise water for the environment and significantly reduce evaporation losses. The Darling Water Savings: Options for Environmental Filling No Impacts, Version 2 report identifies 174 GL per year (Long Term Cap Equivalent) of water savings from operational and infrastructure changes at the Lakes. See Darling Water Savings: Options for Environmental Filling, No Impacts, Version 2
Broken Hill Managed Aquifer Recharge (BHMAR) project
To identify options for securing Broken Hill's water supply, the then Department of the Environment commissioned Geoscience Australia to undertake a study of known groundwater resources and aquifer storage options within 150 km of Broken Hill (the Broken Hill Groundwater Resource Assessment).
Based on positive findings from this study, the department commissioned Geoscience Australia to undertake the BHMAR project to identify groundwater resources and aquifer storage options to secure Broken Hill's water supply in dry periods.
In December 2013, the BHMAR reports were released. The BHMAR project has provided significant insights into the regional groundwater resources of the Darling River floodplain, and identified groundwater related options to enhance Broken Hill’s water security.