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Confirmation that releases to rejuvenate Lower Darling environmental sites will be restocked by ongoing inflows into the Menindee lakes system has been welcomed by Minister for Water Property and Housing Melinda Pavey.

The Menindee lakes storage capacity is at 110 per cent, and large-scale releases of up to 17 gigalitres per day will commence within days to reconnect Lower Darling billabongs and wetlands for the first time since mid-2012.

The increased flows, scheduled for 14 days, will satisfy State Government long-term environmental watering plan obligations, but still leave the lakes at full supply level (100 per cent) as a result of major inflows from the Barwon-Darling upstream.

Preliminary WaterNSW modelling indicates that 600-1200 gigalitres of flow is being generated by recurring rain events across the northern basin, which is more than sufficient to maintain the lakes at full supply level for the foreseeable future.

With low-level releases into the Lower Darling and Great Darling Anabranch already underway for months, the increased flows will now also create overland zones of connectivity between the anabranch and the Lower Darling, extending the environmental benefit.

Minister Pavey said the decision, which was endorsed at a WaterNSW meeting of local stakeholders on Tuesday (30 November), will also bring a degree of flood protection to the Menindee community, and meet operating requirements.

“This decision typifies the manner in which the water generated by this exceptional Spring rain deluge should be managed; for the maximum benefit of multiple stakeholders without unduly impacting on the storage volume of the lakes,” she said.

“The tremendous surplus generated in the northern basin catchment will be used to rejuvenate the significant environmental sites downstream of the lakes – such as billabongs and wetlands – long-starved of replenishment flow over the dry years of multiple droughts.

“In doing so we continue to draw the lakes back to 100 per cent as required and create some flood capacity in the lakes in anticipation of the very large volume of water still making its way down the Lower Darling.”