AFTER being nearly empty in early 2020, there’s been a remarkable turnaround in Murray–Darling Basin water storages following widespread rain throughout 2021, resulting in better water availability for towns, industries and the environment, and good cropping prospects in 2022.

Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt said the dramatic improvement in water availability since 2020 was helping communities, industries and the environment value every drop as we recover from the long-term impacts of drought.

“Two years ago, some towns had run out of water and some of our major centres were projected to run dry – but today it’s a very different story with water storage across the whole Basin now over 92 per cent full, creating more jobs in Basin communities,” Mr Pitt said.

“While there are areas in the Basin that are still experiencing dry conditions, I recently visited Lake Burrendong which has reached 121 per cent capacity, the highest of any catchment across the entire Murray–Darling system.

“It was only two years ago when the water situation in the region become dire with Burrendong Dam sitting at only 1.5 per cent capacity.

“Now we have a situation where Burrendong Dam has been spilling since November last year and there is reliable water available for communities and farmers alike for years to come.”

Mr Pitt said that this is yet another testament to the necessity of well-built and managed dams that will continue to serve our Murray-Darling Basin communities for years to come.

“It’s been great to see communities able to breathe a sigh of relief and plan for bumper crops in 2022,” he said.

“Smarter management of the Basin’s water is delivering more benefits for our farmers with Australia’s overall 2021-22 winter crop production forecast to reach a record 58.4 million tonnes.

“According to ABARES, summer plantings are expected to increase 36 per cent to almost 1.4 million hectares, meaning more jobs in regional towns, boosting local economies and protecting the enviable lifestyle of more than 2.2 million Australians who call the Basin home.”

River habitats and wildlife have also received a welcome boost from the rain, with environmental outcomes expected to improve with more water in the system. “In 2021, water made its way down the Darling Anabranch for the first time since 2017 and reached the Murray River, providing fresh flow for vegetation, fish, birds and people along the way,” Mr Pitt added.

“The flood waters have already attracted numerous wildlife species back to the area, including native birds and fish.

“While the area will take some time to recover from the long-term impacts of drought, the rain has certainly helped turn the health of the habitat around.”

For more information on Murray–Darling Basin water storage levels, visit ‘Water in storages’ on the MDBA website.