The NSW Government is investigating a range of measures for the Darling-Baaka River system as part of rescoping the Menindee Lakes project. These measures are part of a new Better Baaka program.
Following the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council meeting in April 2021, Water Infrastructure NSW has rescoped the Menindee Lakes Sustainable Diversion Limits Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) project and investigated options that might be supported by the community.
The program focus has been evaluating the years of community feedback regarding the need to improve connectivity, environmental, cultural and community outcomes.
We know these issues can only be addressed by taking a holistic, system-wide approach to water infrastructure planning and operations, working in tandem with changes in water policy and strategy. We also know that feedback from our stakeholders and communities is critical to ensuring we progress the best options for delivering outcomes.
Consultation and engagement will be undertaken to work side-by-side with communities to investigate solutions to create a Better Baaka. This is a shift towards beneficial outcomes for communities and the environment.
The options are currently being investigated by the project team, most of which are in the very early stages of planning. Community feedback and input will play a crucial role in shaping which initiatives are progressed, and what these initiatives look like, to deliver a Better Baaka.
Initiatives being proposed
We are proposing a range of initiatives to deliver outcomes acceptable to our communities. Infrastructure improvements and operating rules are being considered to make the Darling-Baaka system more flexible, so its rivers and floodplains can be maintained, and sustainable local communities, agriculture and industries can be supported.
A broader range of policy and rule options to improve connectivity across the Darling Baaka are being investigated through the Western Regional Water Strategy.
Together these programs will seek to address a range of water issues important to local communities, such as water security, temporary water restrictions and the reconfiguration of upstream weirs.
We will also be engaging communities on how to improve fish passage across 2,000 km of the system, through initiatives including the Northern Basin Toolkit 'Fish for the Future strategy' where fishways will be constructed at mainstem weirs and associated water infrastructure.
A key focus of the program will also be on delivering important social and economic outcomes for local First Nations communities along the system, by enhancing tourism and education as well as through employment opportunities.
Download the Better Baaka overview fact sheet (PDF, 1583.92 KB)
The key components/projects being looked at through the Better Baaka program include:
Cawndilla Creek enhancement
- Undertaking infrastructure works to allow Traditional Owners to participate in cultural watering activities in Cawndilla Creek. Work would create some physical separation between the lakes to improve management of the lower and upper lakes while ensuring almost permanent water in Cawndilla Creek and supporting First Nations employment and local tourism.
Weir modifications (Menindee)
- Constructing a new fishway at Lake Wetherell and upgrading Weir 32 that could assist in improving fish passage, improving operational control and managing adverse water quality conditions.
- view the Weir modifications (Menindee) package fact sheet (PDF, 1874.19 KB).
Weir renewals on the Darling
- Including for example upgrading weirs at Pooncarie, Bourke and Collarenebri to provide greater town water security, increase fish passage and better manage Northern Basin flows.
- view the Weir renewals on the Darling package fact sheet (PDF, 1893.58 KB).
Weir modifications and assessments
- Considering a range of options including:
- reviewing long-term options for non-town weirs
- improving fish passage
- reinstating rock bar habitat.
- view the Weir modifications and assessments package fact sheet (PDF, 1867.62 KB). .
Menindee Local community benefits
- Local roads and employment package investigating improved access to, and the safety of, Main Weir Road, and improving amenities to help promote First Nations culture, kickstart tourism and provide employment opportunities for First Nations communities
- view the Menindee Local community benefits package fact sheet (PDF, 1886.06 KB).
Wilcannia Weir Replacement Project (project underway)
- Upgrading Wilcannia Weir by increasing the weir height, installing a new fishway and allowing dual operation to increase town water security, improve fish passage, improve water quality and deliver First Nations employment and training opportunities
- visit the project website.
Toorale Water Infrastructure Project (project completed)
- In addition to the removal of Peebles Dam (completed in 2019) the project involves modifying Boera and Homestead Dams to install fishways and pass higher rates of flow to:
- improve fish passage
- increase maximum flow rates into the Darling River
- support and maintain First Nations cultural values.
- view the project website.
Water for cultural and environmental outcomes
- Exploring strategic purchase options of water in the Northern Basin to improve connectivity between northern tributaries and the Barwon/Darling-Baaka systems and improve cultural and environmental outcomes.
- view the Water for cultural and environmental outcomes package fact sheet (PDF, 1875.23 KB).
Town Water Supply (projects underway)
- Undertaking a range of water infrastructure projects to improve water security and quality for local towns along the Darling-Baaka system, drought proof off-river water supply options and improving storage, while ensuring fish passage outcomes.
- view the Safe and Secure Program website.
Restoring the Baaka
- Identified through community engagement activities, this initiative seeks to improve ecosystem management practices, rehabilitation works along the river system, improve management of threatened species habitat and better management of grazing practices.
Great Darling Anabranch
- Identified through community engagement activity, this initiative seeks to explore greater utilisation of the Great Darling Anabranch for water from Cawndilla Lake.
View the location of the existing and proposed projects making up the Better Baaka program in the map below.
Water Infrastructure NSW hosted a series of webinars in November 2021 to introduce the Better Baaka program to stakeholders.
Better Baaka recorded webinar
Learn more about the program with this recording of the information session from 3 November 2021.
Communities will be at the heart of the Better Baaka program, and we are committed to working in partnership to develop the program to deliver outcomes with broad community support.
We will provide numerous opportunities for local communities and stakeholders to have their say on the design of the program and throughout the development and delivery phases of any projects. This feedback will be a key input into decision making and will help shape the program’s future design.
We are also keen to hear any alternative or additional ideas local communities and stakeholders may have to deliver economic, social, cultural and environmental outcomes across the Darling-Baaka river system.
Upcoming engagement and partnering opportunities will be listed on this webpage and also on our stakeholder engagement page.
Engagement with First Nations people
We recognise and acknowledge the unique relationship and deep Connection to Country First Nations people have as the Traditional Owners and first peoples of Australia.
The wisdom and experience of local First Nations communities will play a critical role in informing the development and approach to the Better Baaka program.
We have a dedicated engagement team who will guide our engagement with these communities, and we look forward to working with them to deliver real, tangible and broadly accepted outcomes.
Questions and answers
Answers to the questions asked by stakeholders during the Better Baaka program webinar series, meetings and other interactions in April 2021.
For more information on the Better Baaka program call 1300 081 047 or email our engagement team at email@example.com.