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Dry autumn for Murray-Darling

Jacobus Cronje, Wednesday April 25, 2018 - 13:47 EST

With just over a month left until the end of autumn, it's shaping up to be a very dry season for most of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Rainfall records indicate that its been the driest first quarter of the year for New South Wales since 1986, and its not surprising that basin water storage and soil moisture are very much below average this late in the season.

The Murray-Darling Basin is fed by 22 catchments over four states, containing the 23 major rivers that eventually and primarily feed into the Murray River.

The latest basin storage report, published 18th April 2018, indicates that the Northern Basin is currently sitting at 36% storage capacity, and the Southern Basin at 52% storage capacity. The basin as a whole is currently sitting at about 50% of storage. This storage includes water contained in lakes, dams and reservoirs.

Currently, only northwestern catchments of the basin have near to above average Root zone moisture (percentage of available water content in the top one metre of the soil profile). Most other catchments, especially the Lower Darling, Lachlan and Murrumbidgee catchments over southern NSW and the ACT, have very much below average moisture content, some in the lowest one percent on record.

In terms of rainfall, the outlook for May is near-average falls, which could translate to widespread falls of about 10-25mm basin-wide. The central and northwestern parts of the basin are expected to receive the lower end of this rainfall range.

Although the expected rainfall totals for the end of autumn across most of the central NSW sections of the basin are modest at best, the outlook for areas that feed the basin from the southeast is somewhat better.

The Upper Murray and eastern Murrumbidgee catchments are the best chance of receiving around 50mm of rainfall during May. This is cause for some optimism, as these catchments combined contribute 33% of the basin's water.

Furthermore, nearly a quarter of the New South Wales' fruit and vegetable production is produced in the Murrumbidgee Catchment.

The northern and northeastern parts of the basin have enjoyed widespread falls of 10-25mm during the last seven days with coastal and inland troughs. Together with more modest falls of 2-5mm widespread over these pats and 5-15mm over the southern parts of the basin, these totals should help boost storage somewhat into the end of autumn.

- Weatherzone

© Weatherzone 2018

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