WASTED: Irrigators are fighting back, after water was released at almost five times the maximum rate as a result of dam maintenance works.
WASTED: Irrigators are fighting back, after water was released at almost five times the maximum rate as a result of dam maintenance works. Karen Berry

Hundreds of millions of litres of water 'wasted'

INFURIATED irrigators are fighting back against a state government decision to "waste” hundreds of millions of litres of water released from EJ Beardmore Dam.

Last month, as part of the safety maintenance works on the dam just outside St George, a combination of environmental, stock and domestic water was released over 12 days into the Balonne River, before it was then released through the Jack Taylor Weir.

Smart Rivers president and irrigator Frank Deshon said not only was it a missed opportunity for communities downstream, but especially during the drought it simply not good enough.

The maximum flow rate is 730 megalitres per day, however Mr Deshon is among those outraged water was released at nearly five times the recommended rate at some points, at a rate of 3600ML/D.

Mr Deshon said they could have gotten the same result if water had been released at the recommended rate, allowing flow rates downstream.

"If they had released the water at the recommended 730 per day, it could have gone over 30 days,” Mr Deshon said.

"With that extra duration, we would have gotten water right down the flow, all the way down to the end of the stream. As a result, the Culgoa has had a bit of a flow through, but it hasn't made it to the Narran.

"It's a missed opportunity, and that's why we're singing out. We haven't had a proper run through since 2016, and we've had very little rain since then. It's really not good enough.”

A Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy spokesman said the increased release rate was necessary to the dam's maintenance.

"As a result of extensive rainfall in the Upper Maranoa catchment, there were approximately 12 days of ESD water released at up to a maximum rate of 730 megalitres per day,” he said.

"A significant volume of water was also released at increased rates, to reduce the level of water in the dam to allow essential works.

"The increase rate was determined by balancing the needs of local water users and downstream communities with the need to get the essential dam maintenance done as soon as possible,” he said.

"As safety is paramount, the excess water needed to be released in a timely manner to enable the vital works. Approximately 11, 000 mega litres of water from this flow event has been temporarily stored off-site until woks are complete, and water is able to be returned for use by irrigators.”

Irrigators told The Balonne Beacon of their frustration of decisions being made 600 kilometres away in the city.

Mr Deshon said there had not been any community consultation about the above-average releases, and many irrigators feel they were not given the respect or thought they deserved.

"That figure of 730mL/day is that when that is released, it gives the most even distribution downstream, and we don't get a flood out. That water goes appropriately down stream,” he said.

"When we realised what was happening, we asked for a teleconference immediately and we made our concerns very well known, but it fell on deaf ears.

"No sooner had we hung up the phone, they increased the rates to over 3000 mega litres per day.

"I think it was total disregard and total disrespect for water users.”