The bleak summer outlook comes as the Murray River continues to rise, with the river height sitting at 5.77 meters in Yarrawonga as of Friday, September 30.
The river is likely to remain around the six-metre mark for the next week as the Murray Darling Basin Authority continues water releases from Hume Dam.
Currently the MDBA is discharging 41,000 megalitres a day from the Hume to maintain airspace, which according to Executive Director of River Management Andrew Reynolds, will ensure they are “keeping the [Hume] dam safe, and capturing flows where we can, to mitigate flooding”.
The outlook is not ideal for school holiday and Christmas travelers wanting to spend time by the water with rising river levels prompting the closure of many free camping sites in the area and authorities predicting the sites not to reopen until the new year.
All Murray Valley National and Parks Victoria Parks and reserves along the river in the Federation Council region and the Moira Shire have been inundated by water and subsequently closed by National Parks NSW and Parks Victoria.
Yarrawonga Holiday Park owner Michelle Driscoll said currently the accommodation business is keeping an eye on water levels but bookings were steadily coming in before floods began.
“At this stage we were already heavily booked prior to the flood warnings,” Ms Driscoll said.
“So this hasn’t affected us too much.
“We are obviously concerned about floods but we are just monitoring the situation and will be as prepared as possible.”
For those hoping for some reprieve soon, the Bureau of Meterology is predicting the flood risk will continue in coming months, following the declaration of a third consecutive La Nina event earlier this month.
NSW SES Southern Zone Duty Commander Shane Hargreaves said community and school holiday makers should monitor local warnings as a cold front moves through the state.
“Our message is to plan ahead, especially during school holidays with traveling,” Mr Hargreaves said.
“We want to urge the community and any travelers to monitor local conditions, try not to stay close to the river, and heed any warnings from NSW SES, Victoria SES and caravan park owners.”
The Yarrawonga SES is also keeping a close eye on the Murray River and urging community members who are prone to flooding to organize sandbags for their properties.
Meanwhile, as farmers in the region anxiously prepare for more rainfall, NSW Farmers Conservation and Resource Management Committee chair Louise Burge said authorities should “absolutely” avoid making flooding conditions even more extreme.
“The decision to keep Hume Dam at 96 or 97 per cent full means there is limited capacity to absorb any risks of large rain event in mountain catchments,” Mrs Burge said.
“Rules around the management of Hume Dam do allow a level of airspace to absorb another large rainfall event, but authorities are not enacting these rules even though there are no risks to irrigation interests if the rule was used to help mitigate flood risks.
“The risk of catastrophic flooding is even worse than what we saw in 2016 when the Central Murray Floodplain Plan failed and farmers had their livelihoods washed away by dam releases.
“In 2016, local farmers warned of the high risk of flood in a La Nina year but were ignored and as a result Hume Dam management led to catastrophic flooding in the Murray Valley because authorities didn’t use existing airspace rules that could have helped reduce the severity of flooding.
“I am really worried that we will see this repeated in 2022, but authorities are still not understanding that the risks are far worse this year than in 2016. It is a pressure cooker at present and the risks of a flood disaster are real.”
There are three things you can do to be prepared for potential floods:
•Develop your personalized flood emergency plan for your home and property by going to the State Emergency Service website for your state.
•Check the Bureau of Meteorology to receive the latest weather information including warnings, river conditions and rainfall in your area