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Topics > River Murray floods

River Murray floods: FAQs

River Murray flood information and maps

What is the current and forecast flows and water levels for the River Murray?

The latest flow information is available on the Flows and daily water levels webpage or view the weekly River Murray Flow Report.

What’s the State Government doing to help prepare river communities for potential flooding?

An online Flood Awareness Map is available for the community and shows the potential inundation expected at a range of flows. This allows residents along the river to check if their property is likely to be affected at various flow levels.

View the current and forecast water levels at monitored sites between Lock 6 and Lake Alexandrina which are updated daily.

Where can I find information to help me prepare for high flows?

You can find a range of information and links on how you can prepare for high flows on the State Government central website: River Murray high flows 2022.

The SES website provides a list of current warnings with near real-time information on current warnings, incidents and, when available, sandbag collection locations.

DEW has:

DEW also issues a weekly River Murray Flow Report with information about water levels, flow rates and barrage operations, as well as navigation issues and construction activities.

For the latest rainfall, river conditions and flood warnings upstream of the SA border visit the Bureau of Meteorology.

Are there any maps available that show where flooding is likely to occur?

DEW’s online Flood Awareness Map is available for the community and shows the inundation areas expected at a range of flows. This allows residents along the river to check if their property may be affected at various flow levels.

To see if your property may be impacted at various flow levels you can follow these steps:

  1. Open the Flood Awareness Map and agree to the terms and conditions
  2. Search to your property via the search box at the top of the map or via council area or suburb drop down lists
  3. In the box titled ‘Flood Studies’ select ‘Flood Mapping of the River Murray 2014’
  4. Then select, the inundation extent you wish to see.

Where do I sign up for updates on river flows?

DEW issues a weekly River Murray Flow Report with information about water levels, flow rates and barrage operations, as well as navigation issues and construction activities.

The public are also encouraged to regularly check the SA Government River Murray flood website andSES website, which includes a list of current warnings with near real-time information.

Levee banks

What is happening with the Department for Environment and Water, council and private levees?

DEW maintains levee banks on Crown Land along the Lower Murray. We have confidence in their performance in a flood event up to the levels and flows for which they are designed. It's important to note however that even if structurally sound, levee banks can only perform their role up to that designed level.

While the State Government does not generally have a role in ensuring private or council-owned levees are maintained, it seeks opportunities to partner with councils and private landholders to access funds to improve or upgrade levee banks where the need is identified.

For comments on the operation of levee banks in an emergency flood situation contact the SES.

Is there a guide for earthen levee embankment inspection and repairs?

An 'Earthen Levee Embankment Inspection and Repair Guide’ has been developed to assist councils and landholders with the inspection and repair of levee embankments. It is not intended to replace expert advice. It is recommended that landowners obtain advice from an experienced levee embankment or dam engineer, or other relevant expert.

Can I still access the government owned levees for recreational activities such as walking?

DEW has closed all government owned levee banks along the Lower Murray from Mannum to Wellington. Recreational activity along the levee banks will not be allowed during this time.

Local Irrigation Trust members and contractors will have continued access and are encouraged to take all necessary precautions when working on the levees, particularly during or following wet weather.

Access to the following levee banks is closed for public recreation: Burdett, Cowirra, Jervois, Long Flat, Mobilong, Monteith, Mypolonga, Neeta, Pompoota and Wall Flat.

The department is taking these preventative measures to minimise risks to public safety. We are being proactive in closing the levee banks temporarily so when the flows do recede, we can reopen in a timely manner once water levels have fallen sufficiently.

We acknowledge that there are privately owned levee banks along the Lower Murray. As they are managed and maintained by private landholders, access to their levee banks may be closed at the discretion of the landholder.

Waste disposal stations

Will river waste disposal stations be closed?

DEW has decommissioned river vessel waste disposal stations from the border to Murray Bridge from 21 November 2022.

The river vessel waste disposal station at Goolwa will remain open at this point, however we will be monitoring this station on a regular basis.

The department is taking these proactive and preventative measures to minimise risks to public safety and water quality and ensure infrastructure is protected.

The temporary closure of this infrastructure is to ensure that when the flows do recede, the systems can go back online in a timely manner.

In the interim while flows are high, commercial options are available for businesses to utilise temporarily at houseboat owners and operators expense while the disposal stations are closed.

The Department for Infrastructure and Transport has recommendations on how river vessels are to navigate during high river events.

To keep up to date with the River Murray flow conditions, subscribe to the River Murray Weekly Flow Report to receive updates each week.

If you have any questions, contact the DEW Engagement Team.

Significance of the flows

What were the peak flows for previous River Murray floods in South Australia?

YearPeak Flow
1956341 GL/day
1931210 GL/day
1974182 GL/day
1975162 GL/day
1993112 GL/day
201695 Gl/day
201194 GL/day

Historically, October to November is the most likely time of year that high flows occur.

Do we know how long these floodwaters are likely to stay around for – days, weeks, months?

Forecasts indicate that the flow at the SA border will fall below 100 GL/day in late January or early February.

Managing River Murray locks and weirs in South Australia

How are River Murray locks and weirs being managed during the current high flood?

SA Water operates the locks and weirs in South Australia on behalf of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and in consultation with DEW.

During periods of normal river flow, the locks and weirs are operated to maintain relatively steady upstream water levels for irrigation, water supply and navigation.

During high flow and flood events it is not possible to operate the locks and weirs, so regulator stop logs and navigation passes are removed. This allows the increased river flows to pass through, to ensure that there is no damage to the infrastructure, which is reinstated as the flow returns to normal operating conditions.

As of November 2022, all relevant weir sections were removed at all of the 6 locks and weirs on the River Murray in South Australia.

The locks and weirs have no impact on water levels during floods, nor can they be used to mitigate flooding.

Given we have known this flood was coming well in advance, why weren’t the water levels in the weir pools reduced to provide capacity for the increased flows?

Lowering the weir pools would make very little difference to reduce the risk of flooding due to the significant volumes of water coming from upstream parts of the catchment. In normal conditions, the flow ranges at the South Australian border are generally between 3 GL/day to 10 GL/day.

Riverland national parks

Can I still visit Riverland national parks?

All riverside parks along the River Murray are closed except for a section of Katarapko. Due to the extent of flooding, day visitors can only access closed parks by canoe or small boat, if safe to do so. All riverside parks are closed to overnight camping. This is a special time to visit parks in the Riverland as they are thriving this spring with floodwater spilling out across the floodplains and filling creeks and wetlands.

Although our campsites and most access tracks and trails are closed there is still plenty to do and see. Remember to fight the bite and bring your insect repellent. Visit the National Parks website for details.

Will I still be able to visit areas along the River Murray when the flood waters arrive?

Yes, local towns and tourism operators are keen promote the opportunity to visit the area – including day trips to the national parks. DEW will continue to keep our website updated with all of the latest information on flows and river levels.

Check the SES website for up-to-date information on flood alerts and warnings and information about the River Murray floods.

Where's a safe spot that I can view the floods from?

There’s a number of lookouts along the River Murray where you might get a good view of the high flows. Spots to consider include Headings Cliff lookout at Murtho, Holder Lookout at Waikerie, Big Bend lookout at Nildotti and Tailem Bend for a nice high view over the river. Craggs Hut Walking Trail lookout offers a panoramic view of flooding over the wetlands and floodplains of Katarapko in Murray River National Park.

Flood protection works undertaken by property owners

How can I protect my infrastructure and assets from floods on Crown land?

DEW supports temporary mitigation measures on Crown land to assist in protecting infrastructure and assets on Crown land or private property adjoining.

You can use temporary measures to protect your infrastructure including sandbags, water bladders or plastic sheeting.

Infrastructure on Crown land could include pumps and pipelines, shacks, pontoons, retaining walls, boat ramps and houseboat moorings.

Temporary mitigation measures include:

  1. Using sand bags on Crown land for protection works
  2. The temporary removal of infrastructure to protect it from the rising flood waters

Owners who wish to undertake temporary mitigation measures on their own private land (freehold and leasehold) should contact their local council for advice.

How do I ensure my activities do not impact on Aboriginal Heritage located on Crown land?

Land surrounding South Australia’s waterways and rivers are of high importance to Aboriginal people and their communities with numerous examples of historic activities undertaken by elders and descendants.

Native Title rights continue to exist and land adjacent the River Murray and within its floodplains hosts numerous culturally significant sites, some dating back as far back as 40,000 years.

It is important that any activity occurring along the River Murray does not adversely impact on these sacred sites that are of high value to Aboriginal people and their communities.

For further information please visit the DEW website for Crown lands.

What if my infrastructure is damaged by the flood event or receding flood waters?

Should you experience any damage as a result of rising or receding flood waters, if it is safe to do so, you should make immediate attempts to secure your infrastructure to assist in preventing any further damage to it along with other structures and/or visitors within the vicinity.

Your insurance company will be able to assist with repairs and/or removal of the damaged infrastructure.

Should an emergency situation arise as a result of infrastructure located along the river you should call 000 for life threatening situations or SA State Emergency Service on 132 500.

Infrastructure and Assets on Crown land

Who is responsible for infrastructure located along the river?

Recreational infrastructure (such as jetties, pontoons and retaining walls) and agricultural infrastructure (such as pumps, pipelines and pump sheds) on Crown land are owned by members of the public who usually own the adjoining property.

The responsibility for the maintenance and management of this infrastructure, including during high flow and flooding events remains with the owner of that infrastructure. Those owners are obligated to adequately insure their infrastructure as outlined in their Crown land licence’s terms and conditions.

Mooring Houseboats

Where can I moor my houseboat along Crown land?

You may moor a houseboat for a temporary stay of up to 21 days on Crown land.

The permanent mooring of houseboats on Crown land is not permitted, except where authorised by the appropriate tenure or in a designated marina.

Some parts of the river are held under freehold title to the water's edge. You are not permitted to moor a houseboat in these locations without the permission of the landowner.

Councils have taken steps to close dedicated Crown land under their management based on the increase in River Murray flows. Local councils can provide further information on these closures.

DEW is assessing key Crown land sites and will take steps to restrict access to the area or facilities should this be required.

Water levels are changing on a regular basis and houseboat owners are encouraged to regularly check their vessels and adjust mooring ropes as necessary. This is not only important as river levels rise but also when waters recede due to the risk of strandings.

Houseboat owners should not rely on mooring to trees during this time, with an increased risk of trees being susceptible to collapse due to increased forces being applied from the moored vessel, the inundation softening the ground and/or erosion around their roots. A collapse risks direct damage to the vessel or through it becoming adrift.

The mooring of houseboats to existing structures along the river may result in damage to that structure and/or the houseboat. You may be liable for any damage resulting from your effort to secure your houseboat.

Flood waters are likely to extend past previously accessible waterfront public land and onto private land and you may be required to seek permission to moor your houseboat from the landholder or responsible land manager.

Visiting and accessing Crown land

What area along the River Murray in South Australia is Crown land?

Both the banks and the bed of the River Murray are Crown land and are subject to the rules that apply to Crown land and may be subject to native title.

In a majority of locations, this is an area of approximately 30 m to 50 m from the water’s edge, but may extend further inland where there is a significant wetland, swamps or conservation areas.

However, there are a few areas where private ownership exists to the water’s edge.

Where can I find information about river safety?

If you are visiting the River Murray, it’s important to do your research on the places you’ll be visiting so you can be best prepared.

Check out useful links to river safety information. Your safety is our concern but ultimately your responsibility.

How will the flood impact Crown land?

Much of the land along the River Murray and its floodplains is Crown land or land proclaimed within the State Reserve system.

The River Murray high flow event is seeing water spilling from the river channel out onto these floodplains and waterfront land. As a result there are various levels of impact occurring to waterfront and floodplain Crown land.

The flood provides a fantastic environmental opportunity to assist in restoring the River Murray floodplain and ecosystem health. It does however bring safety risks to users and visitors who should show caution when visiting Crown land and interacting with the River Murray environment during this time.

How will I know if Crown land remains accessible?

The SES website provides a list of current warnings with near real-time information on current warnings, incidents and, when available, sandbag collection locations (should that be required).

DEW also has an interactive Flood Awareness Map that shows the modelled areas of expected inundation at each of the potential flow rates provided.

DEW also issues a weekly River Murray Flow Report with information about water levels, flow rates and barrage operations, as well as navigation issues and construction activities. This currently includes the weekly High Flow Advice.

For the latest rainfall, river conditions and flood warnings upstream of the SA border visit the Bureau of Meteorology.

How can I check if roads are closed due to flooding?

Visit the SA State Emergency Services website and Department for Infrastructure and Transport website for information on road closures.

DEW is assessing key Crown land sites and restricting access as required. Visitors to Crown land are reminded to:

  • consider safety when visiting sites that have some level of flooding
  • not to drive through flood areas due to the risk of being bogged on River Murray floodplains
  • plan your trip so that you do not become stranded with access cut off from rising flood waters
  • not to camp to close to the edge of flood waters.

Can I still visit and/or camp on Crown land?

River Murray flooding impacts Crown land in different ways. Areas of the River Murray floodplains will remain inaccessible until waters recede however some of the higher waterfront Crown land parcels may only sustain minor to moderate flooding. Visitors to Crown land are reminded to:

  • consider safety when visiting sites that have some level of flooding
  • not to drive through flood areas due to the risk of being bogged on River Murray floodplains
  • plan your trip so that you do not become stranded with access cut off from rising flood waters
  • not to camp to close to the edge of flood waters.

Blackwater

What is blackwater?

Blackwater is a natural phenomenon that can occur after heavy rainfall when organic material such as leaves and wood from floodplains is washed into waterways, resulting in low dissolved oxygen levels.

High levels of organic matter washed into waterways is then consumed and broken down by bacteria. Particularly when combined with warm weather, this can cause oxygen levels in the water to drop, potentially stressing or killing fish and other creatures in the river.

What is being done to manage blackwater?

A blackwater taskforce has been established and is chaired by PIRSA. It includes staff from various agencies and meets on weekly basis. Further information can be found on PIRSA’s website.

Any fish kills observed in the wild should be reported to the FISHWATCH 24-hour hotline on 1800 065 522. Further information is available from the Biosecurity page of PIRSA’s website.

Environmental benefits

What are the environmental benefits for the River Murray channel and floodplains

Environmental flows are important for native fish spawning, bird breeding and plants thriving.

This natural high-flow event is likely to provide much needed water to areas of floodplain that have not received water for over 40 years. Black Box woodlands and other native vegetation that have been struggling in recent years will receive a much-needed boost.

When stressed lignum shrublands and red gum and black box woodlands receive water, it improves the condition of the plants which in turn provides better feeding and breeding habitats for many species of frogs, fish and birds.

Reconnecting the floodplains and wetlands to the main river will allow plants and animals to move throughout the river systems and colonise new areas. Connectivity also supplies organic matter and nutrients to the River system, which increases productivity and the transfer of energy up through the aquatic food web.

Higher flows also stimulate breeding by native fish species such Murray cod, silver perch and golden perch, and will improve the chances of successful recruitment by improving habitat availability and food resources.

Fish and frogs will move from the deeper river into the food-rich waters of these shallow habitats to breed and, in turn, provide more food for birds, turtles and yabbies.

What are the environmental benefits for the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth

The Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth form an internationally significant Ramsar listed wetland, which continues to recover from the impacts of the Millennium drought.

These higher flows will have great benefits for this part of the river system. The flushing flows have helped scour out the Murray Mouth halting the need to dredge for a period of time. Flow through the Murray Mouth is important to flush salt and pollutants from the entire river system and keep water levels and salinity in the Coorong at healthy levels.

It will also support habitat for native frogs such as the southern bell frog, small-bodied fish such as the southern pygmy perch and boost invertebrates that are food for wetland birds.

Why do we need ‘water for the environment’ to help floodplains between high flows?

There is no longer a seasonal flow pattern that supports native animal and plant life, which is why water for the environment is still needed to help our waterways continue to function and flow.

The need for an effective, efficient and seasonal approach to managing water for the environment continues to be critical as the effects of climate change creates increasingly variable conditions.

Lower Murray grazing areas

Are the dairy cows at risk of drowning if the grazing areas along the Lower Murray are flooded?

No, the increase in river flow occurs relatively slowly and this provides adequate time for dairy cows to be moved to other locations well ahead of areas being inundated. Dairy cows graze the flat because of the high quality pasture that is available. Twice every day they are moved off of the flats to be milked, so they know the way already and can be moved very easily.

Information on water levels and flow rates is provided each week through the SA River Murray Flow Report, which you can sign up to receive a copy each week.

View current and forecast water levelsat monitored sites between Lock 6 and Lake Alexandrina, which are updated daily.

Wildlife in floods

Heritage Places

My State Heritage Place has been affected by the flood event, what should I do?

Please call Heritage SA on 8124 4960 if your property is a State Heritage Place and is being affected by the flood. Identify your place by name and location and the Heritage SA team will assist where possible.

If your State Heritage Place has been impacted by floodwater, only return to the property when the SES have advised it is safe to return to the region/location where it is situated.

Where safe to do so, record floodwater impacts with photographs.

Any elements which have been dislodged because of the flooding should be retained where feasible and safe to do so.

Any work to reinstate or repair your place would be deemed ‘development’ under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016, in which case you will need advice and a development application.

Genuinely urgent works must still be discussed with Heritage SA before any work is planned or undertaken.