Farmers along the Murray River are concerned over the high level of water already in the Hume Dam, fearing it could lead to a repeat of major flooding that occurred in 2016.

Key points:

  • Farmers along the Murray River fear a repeat of 2016’s major flooding
  • The Murray-Darling Basin Authority is confident it will be able to manage Hume Dam levels
  • A wetter-than-average season is being forecast by the Bureau of Meteorology 

The dam currently sits at 79 per cent capacity and the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting more rain. 

Byron Gray, 63, a cattle farmer and landowner whose family has been on their property for more than a century said the current situation felt like déjà vu of 2016 when Lake Hume spilled.

“I know they have to fill [the Hume dam], but I think they can fill it at a later opportunity, not the first one they get,” he said.

“If they fill it at the first opportunity, I think we could be sitting with a full dam for a long time so then any major inflows could be pushed through, meaning we have extending floods and high rivers.”

Mr Gray said it was common for his land to flood, however, there were ways to minimise the amount of water.

“First thing you lose is your access, then we have to boat in.

“The pastures go under and you need to manage your cattle and also it creates an unsafe workplace.”

Tricky balancing act

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) said it was comfortable with the amount of water currently in the Hume Dam and was monitoring its levels.

Hume Dam's spillway with foaming water spilling into the river below

Hume Dam, on the Murray River, is the biggest dam in Australia.(

Supplied: WaterNSW


MDBA’s head of river operations, Andrew Reynolds, said the priority was to fill Hume Dam at some point.

“At around 80 per cent full, there’s still quite a bit of space for the immediate term,” Mr Reynolds said.

Mr Reynolds said it was a “tricky balancing act” of making sure the dam was sufficiently filled.

In 2016, extended heavy rain led to flooding.

“The issue comes to us if we get a full storage and we get a really heavy wet period over several days.”

Mr Reynolds said the outlook that the authority had did not indicate if the region was going to have such a protracted event.

“It just tells us that it’s going to be wetter than average,” he said.

Wet catchment already

The Bureau of Meteorology’s general manager of water and agriculture, Matthew Coulton, said conditions in the catchment were “very wet”.

“We are likely to have wetter-than-average conditions over the next three months,

“In these situations, the Bureau works very closely with water agencies and dam operators.”

A man walks through a flooded park

A flooded Noreuil Park in Albury in September 2016 after days of heavy rain.(

ABC Goulburn Murray: Annie Brown 


Compared to 2016, Mr Coulton said, the conditions for 2021 were similar.

“The catchment wasn’t quite this wet in 2016, but it was pretty close,” Mr Coulton said.

“Generally, the climate drivers we are having now are similar to that of 2016.

“That doesn’t mean we are going to have as wet a year, but it means that it’s plausible and it’s likely to be wetter than average and we need to keep an eye on it.”

Enough water needed for full allocation

Victorian Farming Federation’s water council chair, Andrew Leahy, told ABC’s Victorian Country Hour that it was important the MDBA stored enough water for people further downstream.

“The worrying thing is that they don’t go too far the other way to keep everyone happy,” Mr Leahy said.

“As long as the irrigators and the environment are looked after, too.

Murray River Action Group chair Richard Sargood told the ABC’s Victorian Country Hour that changes needed to be made soon.

“The dam is filling at 1 per cent per day, so we’ve got three weeks until the dam is full if it keeps going [on] that trajectory,” Mr Sargood said.

Major flood fears as Hume Dam fills, with more rain forecast
Source 1


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