The Namoi catchment is located in north-western New South Wales covering an area of about 42,000 square kilometres. It is bordered by the Gwydir and Castlereagh catchments. The major river system is the Namoi River, with tributaries including the Peel and Cockburn rivers and Goonoo Goonoo Creek, with major water storages being Keepit, Split Rock and Chaffey dams.
Drought conditions again featured in the Namoi–Peel catchment during 2019–20. Inflows to Keepit, Split Rock and Chaffey dams remained lower than historically recorded and again, Commonwealth water for the environment was not available under general security water entitlements. Under critical drought management, no water was released from Keepit Dam except for a small stock and domestic flow to support landholders.
The Namoi River to Walgett experienced cease-to-flow conditions for nearly 10 months from April 2019 to mid-February 2020.
Storage reserves in Keepit and Split Rock dams increased from near zero to 20% and 3.5% respectively in late June. This improvement was not enough to provide allocation to environmental or general security water entitlements.
Record low inflows continued in the Peel catchment during 2019–20. Chaffey Dam storage reserves were insufficient to allow allocation to general security water entitlements, hence no water was available to support environment demands during the year.
With continuing drought, poor outlook of rain and no water allocation, the Namoi–Peel catchment had an expected very dry resource assessment scenario under the Namoi Catchment Annual Environmental Watering Priorities 2019–20. With no water for the environment available, the primary focus for water management was to improve water security for towns and, where possible, support native fish. In the Peel, as part of the NSW Government’s response to secure water for Tamworth, authorisation was given to WaterNSW to deliver town water supply via a newly constructed pipeline from Chaffey Dam linking with the existing pipeline at Dungowan.