When and where the Murray River flood is expected to peak in South Australia's Riverland

When and where the Murray River flood is expected to peak in South Australia’s Riverland

As water levels rise along the Murray River in South Australia, residents, businesses and authorities are keeping a close eye on what is to come.

Many houses have already been flooded with water and others are without electricity.

Here’s a preview of what’s to come in the coming weeks.

What is the prediction now?

The South Australian government predicts that between 190 and 220 gigalitres of water per day will flow into the river when flooding peaks in late December.

Authorities initially expected there to be two peaks – one in mid-December and one later in the month – but now believe there will be a single peak, with water levels rising. will remain high for months.

The cause of all this water is the huge amount of rain that has fallen in NSW, Victoria and Queensland over the past three years.

Houses and trees under water
Flooding has already hit low-lying areas of towns like Blanchetown.(ABC News)

Australia is experiencing a third consecutive year of La Niña.

La Niña is a weather phenomenon determined by changes in winds and water temperatures in the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean which is accompanied by a greater risk of precipitation.

With catchments already swollen, this year’s rains have caused widespread flooding in the Murray and Darling river systems and much of that water is now ending up in South Australia.

How can we tell where will flood?

Flood modeling maps provide an essential guide for authorities and residents.

Created by the Department of the Environment and Water, they are intended to allow everyone in the territory to see what different flows could mean for their municipality and their territory.

Authorities warn that these flood maps should only be used as a guide.

They were created in 2014 and have not been adjusted for any of the new seawalls created in recent weeks.

A gauge with the years 1870 and 1956 shows the level of recent floods
The flood level has already exceeded the level set in 1931.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

What exactly do the maps reveal?

The maps show what a rise in the river will do when flows reach a certain level.

It shows which roads will be cut, which towns will be hardest hit, and which homes and properties could be flooded.

Renmark, with a population of 7,500, will be the first town to receive full flow, four days after waters peaked on South Australia’s border with NSW and Victoria.

A map of predicted flooding in the Renmark area of ​​the Riverland
Flooding predicted in the Renmark area of ​​the Riverland.(ABC News)

Renmark resident Peter Smith, who lived through the 1956 Riverland floods, relies on reinforced levees built next to his home to protect him, his neighbors and the local hospital.

“All the work has to be done before it gets here, so everyone hopes like hell what they’ve done is right – and I think it is,” Mr. Smith.

Mr Smith’s home is next to Renmark Paringa District Hospital and Aged Care Facility, which evacuated more than 50 patients as a precaution.

A man wearing a red shirt and shorts standing on a dirt dike next to a river
Renmark resident Peter Smith on a dike near his home.(ABC News: James Wakelin)

About 30 of those residents were transferred to upper sections of the hospital, while 20 were taken to alternative centers.

As we follow the river, next are the other major towns of Berri, which has a population of around 4,100, and Loxton, home to 4,500 people and which will receive peak flows two to three days after Renmark.

These towns, like most of the Riverland, largely serve as service centers for local primary producers, who depend on river irrigation to grow wine grapes, stone fruits, and almonds.

It’s some of those primary producers in low-lying homes that will be flooded.

Many properties have already sunk.

Shacks are also expected to be hit and roads cut off, but mapping shows major centers are expected to emerge largely unscathed.

A map of predicted flooding in the Berri, Loxton and Barmera area of ​​the Riverland
Flooding forecast around the towns of Berri, Loxton and Barmera.(ABC News)

How does this flood compare historically?

While the height of the rivers already exceeds the historic levels of 1974, the flood of 2022 is expected to be well below the catastrophic floods of 1956.

During this flood, the flows reached 341 gigalitres per day.

The main streets of Renmark and Mannum both sank in this devastating event.

Dave Schache recalls the main streets being covered in sandbags to protect as many businesses as possible.

“The sandbags were 10 feet high on the side of the road and the water was flowing under our feet,” Schache said.

A vineyard near Renmark submerged in water amid flooding.
This vineyard near Renmark was flooded.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

In the 2022 flood, substantial holiday homes built since 1956 and just above river level are expected to be hardest hit.

Already 1,100 homes have been affected, but that figure is expected to rise to around 4,000.

How will the Murraylands fare?

Many properties from Cadell to Morgan to Blanchetown and Swan Reach are already partially flooded.

The water level is already near the first floor of many properties, and is expected to rise much higher as it peaks around 10-12 days after passing Renmark.

Next in line is Walkers Flat, with modeling showing many homes will be flooded.

Further south is Mannum, which has a population of 2,400.

A map of predicted flooding in the Mannum area of ​​the Murraylands
Flooding forecast in the Mannum area of ​​the Murraylands.(ABC News)

Businesses and homes on the wrong side of a new dike appear threatened, as do holiday homes across the river in the Bolto reserve.

The authorities, as they did in 1956, built a sea wall in the main street of Mannum to protect the majority of businesses.

While in 1956 they mainly used sandbags, this time they used new DefenCell dikes.

A large sandbag wall next to a building
A DefenCell seawall near the Mannum Visitor Center and Museum.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Kathryn Jensen)

Mid Murray Council chief executive Ben Scales said that although the flood was moving very slowly, the river was clearly rising, along with people’s anxiety levels.

“It’s not a flash flood. It’s been coming for a while. But we don’t know exactly what will happen, which is creating some anxiety among residents and the community at large,” Scales said.

While riverside properties like the Murray Bridge Club look vulnerable, the town itself should be safe as the waters peak about two weeks after passing Renmark.

What help is offered to those affected?

For those who need help, the South Australian government is providing emergency accommodation for eligible residents of Riverland.

Emergency Personal Hardship Grants worth $1,000 are available for families.

Subsidies are also available, under certain circumstances, for people who need generators due to power outages.

More information is available at sa.gov.au/floods or by calling 1800 362 361.

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