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Extraordinary times for the Darling River

The Darling River at Bourke was 12.1 metres and rising on Tuesday evening. According to the Bureau of Meteorology the river could peak at 12.70 metres by this weekend. Inset – WaterNSW spokesman Tony Webber says the current flows in the Barwon-Darling are unusual. Photos: TWH/WaterNSW

These are extraordinary days - and the statistics are there to prove it.

According to WaterNSW data, the volume of water which has flowed past Bourke since the beginning of the year exceeds to the entire volume of water held in Menindee Lakes - an astonishing 1600 to 2000 gigalitres.

WaterNSW spokesman Tony Webber is used to the highs and lows of the ‘boom or bust’ Darling River, but he said the rain events of this year were ‘unprecedented’.

“It is unique in my lifetime at least, to see this volume of water uniformly right across inland NSW, whether there is a WaterNSW dam on that river or not,” Mr Webber said.

“We are seeing this extraordinary weather phenomenon, with multiple La Nina patterns generating what seems like no end to the rainfall and the resulting run off.

“With the volume of water coming down the system, as has been the case since last summer, we will be making controlled releases out of the lakes and managing those levels in consultation with the SES to make sure we have no adverse impacts locally, and we’re managing that in anticipation of this large volume of water arriving.

“That doesn’t factor in water that has fallen across the northern basin and specifically the important northern tributaries - the Macquarie, Gwydir, and Namoi Rivers. Based on the prevailing weather forecast there could be more water on top of that.

“We’re seeing a recurring pattern of rainfall on saturated ground, generating huge run off and creating hardship for communities on its way to Menindee Lakes,” he said.

WaterNSW runs a delicate balancing act to manage the flows and releases, using advanced weather forecasting technology, enormous amounts of data, modelling, maps - and good old fashioned local knowledge.

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