Total irrigation ban on O’Connell River system

25 August 2021

The Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water yesterday enacted a total ban on taking water for rural or irrigation purposes from the O’Connell River and tributaries.

This ban follows the introduction of water limitations on 6 August, which reduced permitted use to night irrigation, from 5pm to 6am, 3 nights a week.

The Department monitors water levels in the O’Connell River system via a series of gauging stations and these monitors have shown water levels diminishing to concerning levels.

All irrigators were notified when limitations were introduced on 6 August and all irrigators have been notified of the total ban, introduced yesterday.

The Department notified irrigators through letters and text message, as well as public notification on the Department’s website.

Some irrigators will have access to alternate sources of water.

The limitations and yesterday’s ban have been introduced slightly earlier than usual, due to a drier than usual wet season last year which has left water levels and soil moisture levels lower than usual for this time of year.

Water levels from the gauging stations are publicly available via the department’s water monitoring portal, and anyone can access this information.

Water levels in the O’Connell River have now reached a critically low level where the fragile ecosystem, along with the flora and fauna that rely on this system, are at risk.

The O’Connell River is home to numerous bird and fish species, including the iconic jungle perch and barramundi. When water in the river system falls to a critical level, as it is now, it has serious impacts on fish movements, and fish health. The limitation also aims to provide for riparian stock and domestic water users that have no alternative sources of water.

This ban will remain in place until the area receives sufficient rainfall that the river system is recharged and water levels rise.

Hopefully, that will be soon.

Last updated: 25 Aug 2021