River Murray floods: FAQs
- River Murray flow information
- Levee banks
- Significance of the flows
- Riverland national parks
- Flood protection works undertaken by property owners
- Infrastructure and assets on Crown land
- Mooring houseboats
- Visiting and accessing Crown land
- Environmental benefits
- Wildlife in floods
- River Murray floods FAQs translation: Greek
- River Murray floods FAQs translation: Punjabi
River Murray flow information
What are the current and forecast flows and water levels for the River Murray?
How do I receive updates on river flows?
You can keep up to date on SA River Murray flow rates, water levels, barrage operations, navigation issues and construction activities by subscribing to, or accessing current and previous issues of, the SA River Murray Flow Report.
The public are encouraged to regularly check the SA Government Recovery website and the South Australian State Emergency Service Service (SES) website, which includes information on current warnings, with near real-time information.
What is the difference between floods and high flows?
High flows occur when River Murray flows are between 40GL and 80GL per day at the South Australian border. High flows enable water to flow over riverbanks, into surrounding creeks, lakes, wetlands and floodplains, generating system-wide environmental benefits.
Floods can occur when River Murray flows at the South Australian border exceed 100GL per day, causing an overflow of water beyond the normal limits of a watercourse, extending over what is usually dry land. This can happen when water escapes from a natural watercourse such as a lake, river, or creek.
Major flooding can cause considerable damage to homes, businesses, and public infrastructure, with lengthy and costly recovery processes for communities.
Fore more info visit our River Murray flows page.
Lower Murray Reclaimed Irrigation Area levee recovery
For updates on the status of LMRIA levees, visit the dedicated Lower Murray Reclaimed Irrigation Area (LMRIA) levee banks page.
Field inspections of the Lower Murray levee banks between Mannum and Wellington are ongoing, and reinforcement of levee stabilisation works, where required, is underway. The risk of increased flows on the repaired sections of levees is also being assessed and any identified risks, as well as reinforcement, is being addressed on a priority basis.
If you have queries about levee stabilisation works or would like to discuss your particular circumstances, please contact the Department for Environment and Water through the following channels:
Birgitte Sorensen, Manager Levee Recovery
(08) 8463 6942 or Birgitte.Sorensen@sa.gov.au
Lisa van der Linde, Communications and Engagement Officer
0437 313 087 or Lisa.Vanderlinde@sa.gov.au
What assistance is available for levee landholders?
Primary producers impacted by the River Murray flood are encouraged to access the Primary Producer Recovery Grants and the Primary Production Irrigation Grants along with other services. For more information visit the Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) website.
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 and it is recommended that landowners obtain advice from an experienced levee embankment or dam engineer, or other relevant expert.
Is it safe to access government owned levees?
All government-owned levee banks along the Lower Murray from Mannum to Wellington remain closed to public access until further notice. While flood recovery works are being undertaken and until full condition assessments have been completed, recreational activities along these levee banks, such as walking, cycling, and fishing are not allowed.
The government-owned levee banks are:
- Wall Flat
- Long Flat
Privately-owned levees along the Lower Murray are managed and maintained by private landowners and access to their levee banks is at their discretion. However, access to private levee banks where the department is undertaking flood recovery work is not permitted.
Significance of the flows
What were the peak flows for previous River Murray floods in South Australia?
Historically, October to November is the most likely time of year that high flows occur.
Managing River Murray locks and weirs during floods
How are locks and weirs managed during floods?
SA Water operates the locks and weirs in South Australia on behalf of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and in consultation with the Department for Environment and Water (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 flood events, it is not possible to operate the locks and weirs, so stop logs and navigation passes are removed. This allows the increased river flows to pass through and ensure there is no damage to the infrastructure, which is reinstated as the flow returns to normal operating conditions.
Riverland national parks
Can I still visit Riverland national parks?
Yes you can. While some areas of the parks remain closed, more than 100 of the 200 campsites within the region’s national parks are now reopened. National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has been working tirelessly following the 2022-23 River Murray flood event to assess, rebuild and recover park assets so they are suitable again for recreation and tourism use.
With the environmental benefits of the flood emerging, this is a special time to visit parks in the Riverland. Visit the National Parks website for details on which parks and sites are available to visit. Remember to fight the bite and bring your insect repellent though.
Flood protection works undertaken by property owners
Do I need approval to remove temporary flood protection measures undertaken prior to and during the flood event?
DEW supported temporary flood mitigation measures on Crown land to assist in protecting infrastructure and assets from the River Murray flood waters. Temporary measures included the construction and/or use of sandbags, water bladders or plastic sheeting.
Now that flood waters are receding and when safe to do so, temporary flood mitigation measures can start to be removed. Should removal involve earth disturbing activities or the removal or introduction of soil or fill to remediate the land, permission may be required from DEW prior to commencing. This ensures
- activities do not impact sites of cultural significance and native title
- appropriate approvals can be obtained such as development approval and
- works undertaken on Crown land is not detrimental to the environment and communities.
Emergency provisions were implemented for temporary flood mitigation activities. Should any of temporary measures now be considered permanent, retrospective approval for these works will be required. Those seeking retrospective approval should discuss their proposal with DEW’s Crown Lands Program and their local Council.
Retrospective approvals are an important part of recovery and remediation. It ensures permanent flood mitigation measures are appropriately constructed and fit for purpose, and do not have a negative impact on the environment, adjoining neighbour's property and the community.
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 and often contain material from the activities of 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 have experienced 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.
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 and operators should show caution mooring to trees as flood waters subside. Trees could be susceptible to collapse as flood waters may have softened the ground and/or eroded around their roots. Additional forces applied from a moored vessel may increase the risk of collapse which could cause direct damage it.
DEW is not responsible for the recovery or re-floating of houseboats should they become stranded as a result of receding flood waters. In the event that your vessel becomes stranded, you will be required to organise the recovery or re-floating of the vessel at your cost. If your vessel is stranded on Crown land and for a period longer than 21 days, you will be required to seek authority from DEW on behalf of the Minister for Climate, Environment and Water for it to temporarily remain on Crown land until it is recovered. Any authority provided with be subject to applicable terms and conditions and permit fees.
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 has the 2022-23 flood event impacted 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 2022-23 River Murray flood event resulted in water spilling from the River channel out onto the surrounding floodplains and waterfront land. The flood event impacted waterfront and floodplain Crown land in various ways. Some areas were fully inundated while others were isolated with access limited due to high water levels.
As we move past the peak and with water levels receding, there continues to be safety risks to users and visitors who should show caution when visiting Crown land and interacting with the River Murray environment during this time. The environment may have changed due to the flood, providing additional risks to visitors such as decreased accessibility, bank collapse or slumping, debris and/or trees being unstable due to erosion and damage.
Restricted access, risks and safety concerns and debris/waste can be reported to DEW to DEW.CrownLands@sa.gov.au for assessment. DEW will undertake a risk management approach in assessing and responding to reports received and look to further mitigate any risk to people and environment. You should talk with your insurance provider regarding any flood related damage caused to private assets which are located on or adjacent Crown land.
Until floodplains and waterfront Crown land fully dry out after water levels recede, there is an increased risk of damaging property, such as vehicles or access tracks on the Crown land if accessing these areas. Typically river flats become impassable when wet with increased risk of strandings, slippery road conditions and unnecessary erosions to tracks. Those willingly damaging Crown land may be guilty of an offence and liable to expiation or prosecution.
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 has an interactive Flood Awareness Map that shows the modelled areas of expected inundation at each of the potential flow rates provided.
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.
For the latest rainfall, river conditions and flood warnings upstream of the SA border visit the Bureau of Meteorology.
The Parks SA website includes a list of park closures and alerts which may impact Crown lands within national parks.
Are roads still closed due to flooding?
Visit the Department for Infrastructure and Transport website for live 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.
Environmental benefits of floods
What are the environmental benefits for the River Murray channel and floodplains
Flood waters can provide much needed water to areas that are often dry, such as higher floodplains. This inundation reconnects surrounding creeks, lakes, and wetlands to the main river, which stimulates growth in ecosystems and increases crucial food sources, therefore providing better breeding habitats for many species of frogs, fish and birds.
Vegetation benefits equally from the additional inundation, as it mobilises organic material and nutrients into the river system and increases the health and diversity of plants, with tree species such as river red gum, black box, and river coobah receiving a much needed boost. This then transfers benefits up through the aquatic food web.
What are the environmental benefits for the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth
The Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth (CLLMM) form an internationally significant Ramsar listed wetland.
Flood waters can benefit for this part of the river system as flushing flows can help to 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.
Why do we need ‘water for the environment’ to help floodplains between high flows?
Water for the environment is water allocated to support greater environmental outcomes and includes the timing, frequency, duration, and magnitude of water delivered.
Post-European settlement river regulation has heavily reduced the River Murray’s natural variability and the availability of water for the environment. Flows are more reduced in terms of magnitude, duration, and frequency, resulting in the degradation of wetlands and floodplains, and the decline of keystone flora and fauna species.
Environmental water is required to create small flow events or supplement larger unregulated events, to support the ecology of the river system and help ecosystems thrive. The effective, coordinated approach to managing the delivery of water for the environment will continue to be critical as the effects of climate change create increasingly dry conditions.