Shack owners along the Murray River in South Australia are being told by a local council to prepare for possible flooding.
- Some shack owners have started to move their belongings in preparation for a flood
- More water is in the system due to La Niña weather conditions and full dams upstream
- Shacks are at risk of water damage when flows hit 60 gigalitres a day
Mark Dutton owns the second-lowest-lying shack in the town of Morgan, about two hours east of Adelaide.
His home has been inundated twice before and he knows it could go under again soon.
“You’ve got to be sensible and say when we purchased that shack, we knew where we were purchasing it, so you can’t be surprised that rivers flood — that’s what they do,” Mr Dutton said.
“It’s part of the beauty of the area after a flood — it’s just amazing — the bird life in the backwaters come to life.
“We saw spoonbills from our rear balcony fishing for yabbies in the conservation park out behind our place.
“But obviously to get that it’s a lot of moving furniture, it’s a lot of cleaning up after a flood. And you get those extended periods of time where you can’t access your shack, let alone use it.
“Effectively, your place becomes the bottom of the river, so you’ve got to clean all that mud and silt and muck out of there. So it’s a bit of a menace. It’s a bit unpleasant.”
Mr Dutton said while he understood the risk to his property, he wanted earlier warning from authorities.
“On both occasions in the past, the flood warnings come from the ferry operator,” he said.
“So, the earlier we can find out, the better; if for nothing to mentally prepare ourselves for ‘here we go again’.
Mid Murray Council chief executive Ben Scales said preparations for protecting infrastructure and alerting property owners were underway.
“Our plan will be to look at our assets — our swim systems and potential roads that we have — that we know that create issues depending on the flow of the river, and some pontoons on our boat ramps, where we need to look at taking them away if it gets too high,” he said.
‘More health in the Murray’
Downstream in Mannum, David Hartley and his wife Wendy run a business leasing river shacks for holidays.
He said the increasing flows had been a drawcard for visitors, with an abundance of wildlife around.
“The pelicans [have] all gone because they’re up in areas that have been flooded already,” Mr Hartley said.
“There seems to be a lot more cormorants around, more egrets and just your general shags but there’s just seems to be a bit more health in the Murray.”
Mr Hartley said he would keep the books open for all 90 properties but would offer refunds if any shacks were cut off by floodwaters.
“With it happening over winter as well it’s not really traditional river time, so a lot of people are quite happy to still go up and look at the high water and something a bit different,” he said.
Where is the water coming from?
Ongoing wet weather has meant unregulated flow — the water in the river that is not already being used — has been flowing into South Australia since July last year.
The water flowing over the border peaked in December at about 37 gigalitres per day in winter and has dropped back to about 28 gigalitres per day, but sustained rainfall through autumn and now winter has meant unregulated flow will continue for some time.
Chrissie Bloss, water delivery manager at the Department of Environment and Water (DEW) says it takes around 40 gigalitres per day to provide benefits to floodplains.
DEW is planning to undertake floodplain watering and weir raising across late winter and spring, with regulators to be turned on at Chowilla, Pike and Katarapko.
Inflows into South Australia are expected to increase in coming weeks with rain falling in the River Murray catchments and more of the Darling water making it into the system.
“At 40 gigalitres per day [DEW] will issue a high-flow advice just so people are aware the river is moving faster and the water levels will be raised,” Ms Bloss said.
“If the forecast gets up to 60 gigalitres per day that’s when a minor flood warning would be issued for the shack areas between Morgan and Mannum, but at the moment there’s no indication the river will get that high.”
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