Region ‘prepared’ for severe flooding

No go: Roads have been closed along the river, including through Thompsons Beach Parks. Photo of Isabelle Harris

Landowners and tourism operators along the Murray River are preparing for possible flooding in the coming months following the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecast of above average rainfall.

In Cobram, public barbecues have been removed from Thompsons Beach, which is experiencing extensive flooding, as well as road closures leading to the beach boat launch and along part of the River Rd.

The BOM outlook for August to October calls for above average rainfall due to an ongoing Indian Ocean negative dipole in northwestern Australia, with a third consecutive La Nina weather pattern also likely.

Andrew Reynolds, executive director of river management for the Murray Darling Basin Authority, said the MDBA had pre-released water from the Hume Dam to create airspace since May and had nearly 250 gigalitres of available airspace to capture future inflows.

With soils already wet, rivers high and dams full, the forecast has local landowners worried, with potential flood levels likely to be “higher than 2016”.

Murray River Action Group chairman Richard Sargood said landowners along the Murray River were very concerned.

“The reports and models are all saying the same thing, which means the potential for flooding is worse than what we had in 2016,” Mr Sargood told the Free press.

“We still have two months left, and the Dartmouth dam is already full, and the Hume dam is almost full. Once Dartmouth spills out, we’ll have big flows.

“It’s a very scary situation. We are truly prepared for disaster.

Mr Sargood said even average seasonal rainfall would lead to significant flooding.

“We have three months of this risk staring us in the face,” he said.

“In 2016, more than 100,000 megaliters per day passed through Corowa and there could very well be more this year.

“At the time Dartmouth had no hope of a spill, whereas this year Dartmouth will be an absolute certainty of spilling and once that happens it will increase the catchment area by 25% that will discharge directly into Hume.

“That means you may have to deal with 25% more influx than in 2016. It’s going to get really, really ugly.”

Mr Sargood said while the Murray Darling Basin Authority had improved the management of its dams since 2016 by increasing airspace, “it has let them fill up too quickly”.

“We understand that we live in a floodplain and we get flooding, but there should be much better management in place to mitigate flooding,” Mr Sargood said.

Water everywhere: Parts of Thompsons Beach were completely underwater, including the picnic tables, playground, and boat launch. Photo of Isabelle Harris

“Part of Hume Dam’s operating procedures state that they are supposed to have the dam nearly full before demand exceeds inflows, and then, if possible, provide flood mitigation. But they treat these two conditions as mutually exclusive.

“Every landowner who has frontage on the Murray River or its tributaries will have plans in place to move cattle, put cattle on hold and make sure there are no welfare issues, but it is a very costly exercise.

“Caravan parks will have to remove caravans and tourists will stop coming because as soon as you mention flooding in the Murray River tourists will stop coming.”

Useful information

The primary purpose of the Hume Dam is water security – it plays a crucial role in managing flows and securing water along the Murray River, including all the way to Adelaide.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority must fill Hume Dam before irrigation demands begin to exceed inflows and the level begins to drop. This ensures that water allowances are maximized.

MDBA operates the Hume Dam in accordance with rules established by state governments.

When the dam fills, all flood waters will pass through the dam and flow downstream, along with water from tributaries such as the Kiewa River.

The Bureau of Meteorology is responsible for issuing flood warnings to the public. Check for up-to-date flood alerts in your area.

For more information on how dams are managed to reduce the impact of flooding visit:

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