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17/04/2009

MDBA's dire update: Lowest flows in 117 years

The Murray Pioneer Thursday April 9.

Murray inflows between January and March have slumped to their lowest in 117 years — with little relief in sight.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) released the grim news last week in its latest drought update.

MDBA chief executive Rob Freeman said low storage levels combined with a drier than average three-month outlook meant conditions for irrigators were bleak.

"Total inflows for the first three months of this year were 140GL, slightly lower than the previous historic minimum of 150GL in January-March 2007," Freeman said.

"Inflows for the 2008/09 water year are currently tracking as the sixth driest on record."

Freeman said flows into South Australia would continue below normal entitlement rates while water availability remained poor. He said the persistence of the drought was "unprecedented" and irrigation prospects would rely heavily on future rainfall.

"All three states have set aside enough water to meet critical human water needs in 2009/10, but the prospects for irrigation will be highly dependent on future rainfall and system inflows," he said.

While the north of the basin received good rainfall during February, the Medindee Lakes received just 190GL from the Darling River, increasing the storage level to just 15% capacity.

"Murray system inflows for the three years ending in March were 5160GL, or 46% of the previous three year minimum of 11,300GL in 1943 to 1946," Freeman said.

"Wetland and floodplain ecosystems across the entire Murray system will continue to be severely impacted by the prolonged dry conditions."

Minister for the River Murray Karlene Maywald announced any changes to South Australia's water allocations on Wednesday. Riverland irrigators have been stuck on 18% since February 1 when allocations increased from 15%.

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