Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, Senator Simon Birmingham, and the NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, today announced a funding agreement of up to $800,000 for the NSW Government to undertake project planning, stakeholder consultation and detailed design work for a water savings project to reduce average evaporation at the Menindee Lakes by 80 gigalitres.

“Improving the operation of Menindee Lakes has been talked about for a very long time and today we are taking a significant step towards turning that talk into action,” Senator Birmingham said.

NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, said she is pleased the two governments will progress the NSW option which will maintain supply to downstream users, improve drought supply to Broken Hill and maintain the environmental values of the Lakes.

“When the NSW Liberals and Nationals Government was elected in 2011, one of the first things I did was terminate the Menindee Lakes agreement which the former Labor Government made with the previous Commonwealth Government,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

“That untenable agreement would have jeopardised Broken Hill’s town water supply and was unacceptable to the NSW Government, the people of the region and downstream water users.

“As such, I am pleased to be able to today announce this new agreement with the Commonwealth, which has the potential to save on average up to 80 gigalitres litres of water annually,” said Ms Hodgkinson.

Senator Birmingham said the 453 square kilometre Menindee Lakes storage system is strategically located to capture flows from the Darling River and is used to supply water to NSW, Victorian and South Australian users.

“Through major technical studies we have acquired a much better understanding of the groundwater resources of the region and agreed on the basic scope of works that could allow the Lakes to be operated in a way that will achieve significant water savings, especially by reducing evaporative losses, to an average of 80 gigalitres per year,” he said.

“This agreement will provide the basis for determining the total scope of water and cost of the overall Menindee Lakes project and is due to be completed in the second half of 2014. I look forward to working with all states and stakeholders to ensure we proceed to implementation of these plans as quickly as possible,” said Senator Birmingham.