The government purchase of Toorale Station will do very little for the present emergency situation in the Murray-Darling Basin, a CSIRO water expert says.

Under the landmark deal – worth $A23.75 million – an average of 20 gigalitres of water will be returned to the Darling River each year, peaking up to 80 gigalitres in flood years.

Toorale, in north-western NSW, presently holds entitlements to extract 14 billion litres of water from the Warrego and Darling Rivers each year, along with rights to harvest water from the floodplain.

The purchase of the property had to be viewed in terms of the long-term health of the Darling and lower Murray river systems, CSIRO’s Water for a Healthy Country Research Flagship director Tom Hatton said.

“It’s true that it will do very little in the present emergency situation, for the lower lakes and Coorong,” Hatton said.

“But in terms of the long-term benefits to the river, it’s a significant step forward and a very positive step forward for that 15 or 20 gigalitres on average to be allowed in the future to move down the bottom end of the Warrego and through the Darling system to the Menindee lakes.”

Entitlement holders and environmental assets downstream of the station would benefit from having more water through the system.

“There are key wetlands, flood plain vegetation, between there and the bottom … end of the system that will benefit and the security of the entitlement holders who use water south of Toorale will also benefit,” Hatton said