Irrigators likely to have limited access to water in accounts

Irrigators are likely to have access to the water in their accounts limited as drought conditions continue.

A meeting with water licence holders in Forbes on Friday attracted dozens of irrigators from the length of the Lachlan River, from Canowindra down to Hillston.

Without inflows into Wyangala Dam, they heard, there will be no new allocation of water for irrigation this year and an estimated 45 per cent of water held over from previous years is expected to be held back.

An announcement will be made on July 1, but representatives from Water NSW and Department of Primary Industry - Water have been touring affected areas meeting with licence holders ahead of final decisions.

The Forbes meeting had one of the highest attendances of the eight they had held so far, Michael Wrathall, Drought Coordinator with the Department of Industry-Water, said, but the themes were similar. What most growers wanted was certainty so they could make informed decisions.

"Today is all about an update on the drought in the Lachlan and Belubula regulated rivers in particular, also the groundwater," he said on Friday.

"The current status, forecasts and how we're going to manage these shortfalls into the future.

"There are shortfalls in the Lachlan regulated river and the Belubula ... and also the lower Lachlan groundwater source is on the cusp of reduced allocations."

Wyangala is now at 28 per cent, and Mr Wrathall said there was a pretty good understanding of surface water supply expectations.

General security licence holders are expecting access to about 55 per cent of the water that is in their accounts.

"45 per cent will be frozen for now until new inflows allow that to be unfrozen," Mr Wrathall said.

The Lachlan regulated river is listed as Stage 2 or "emerging" on the Government's new drought stage measure of 1 to 4, with Stage 3 severe and Stage 4 critical.

But water authorities are preparing for Stage 3 measures, Mr Wrathall explained.

High security licence holders might also see a reduction in allocation, possibly 87 per cent.

There's a need for caution as dry conditions continue.

"Part of this is about ensuring critical needs are met in the future, so next year, if it stays dry, we have got water for towns, stock and domestic users," Mr Wrathall said.

Lachlan Valley Water chairman Tom Green said irrigators were expecting Friday's news.

"Inflows are below target and the lowest security licence begins to pick the shortfall up," he said.

"I guess it's not unexpected that this will occur under the current conditions."

A reduction in the availability of water licence holders have held over has happened before, the last time was about 2006 during the millennium drought.

Mr Green said growers were going away from Friday's meeting with some, but not all, the answers they had come for.

"It's clear and understood that whatever is made available on July 1 will be available for the full 12 months, to all sections of the river," he said.

"The other point is that suspended carryover will be the first to be allocated (when conditions do return to normal)."

Water NSW online water availability report says carryover into 2018-19 in the Lachlan River was about 369 gigalitres.

Mr Wrathall acknowledged that water allocations were a real balancing act.

"Ultimately it's about the risk level - we recognise that the economy and many businesses rely on water and try to provide general security water as much as we can too," he said.

Cowra has had a relative dry autumn, with the most rain, 57.2mm, falling the month of March according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

In April, the area only received 3.2mms of rain and 20.8mm fell during May.

The BOM's winter outlook indicates we're unlikely to get the wetter than average winter we might have hoped for.

"Southeastern Australia could see a dry start to winter, with the models showing June rainfall is likely to be below average in New South Wales, Victoria, eastern South Australia, and southern parts of both Queensland and the Northern Territory," manager of long-range forecasting Dr Andrew Watkins said.

"In other parts of the country, there is no strong swing towards an exceptionally wetter or drier than average June."