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This brochure describes the flood warning system operated by the Australian Government, Bureau of Meteorology for the Bulloo River. It includes reference information which will be useful for understanding Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins issued by the Bureau's Flood Warning Centre during periods of high rainfall and flooding.

Bulloo River at Thargomindah
Bulloo River at Thargomindah
Contained in this document is information about:
(Last updated May 2011)

Flood Risk

The Bulloo River catchment is located in south west Queensland and covers an area of approximately 55,000 square kilometres. The river rises in the Gowan Range, 125 kilometres north of Adavale and is joined by its main northern tributary, Blackwater Creek, 20 kilometres below Adavale. Flowing in a southerly direction, the river passes through the catchment's only towns of Quilpie and Thargomindah, before entering sandy country on the Queensland-New South Wales border. Floods normally develop in the headwaters of the Bulloo River and Blackwater Creek, however, flooding can develop from heavy rainfall falling in the middle to lower reaches of the catchment below Quilpie.

Previous Flooding

The Bulloo River at Quilpie has well documented history of flooding dating back to 1950 with Thargomindah having records dating back to 1949. The flood of May 1989, 2010 and to a lesser extent the flood of April 1990, caused inundation of many properties in both the Quilpie and Thargomindah districts. The significant flood peaks at Quilpie and Thargomindah are shown in the figures below.

Highest Annual Flood Peak Diagram

Highest Annual Flood Peak Diagram

Flood Forecasting

The Bureau of Meteorology operates a flood warning system for the Bulloo River basin based on a rainfall and river height observations network shown on the map. The network consists of a number of volunteer rainfall and river height observers who forward observations by telephone when the initial flood height has been exceeded at their station, as well as automatic telephone telemetry stations at Quilpie and Autumnvale which are operated by the Bureau of Meteorology, the Quilpie Shire Council and the Department of Environment and Resource Management.

The Bureau's Flood Warning Centre issues Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins for the Bulloo River during flood events. River height predictions are issued for Thargomindah when moderate flood levels are likely to be exceeded. 

Local Information

The Quilpie and Bulloo Shire Councils may be able to provide further information on flooding in your area of the Bulloo River catchment.

Flood Warnings and Bulletins

The Bureau of Meteorology issues Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins for the Bulloo River regularly during floods. They are sent to radio stations for broadcast, and to local Councils, emergency services and  a large number of other agencies involved in managing flood response activities. 

Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins are available via : 

Radio stations, particularly the local ABC, and local commercial stations, broadcast Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins soon after issue.

Local response organisations
These include the Councils, Police, and State Emergency Services in the local area. 

Internet/World Wide Web
Flood Warnings, River Height Bulletins and other weather related data is available on the Bureau's Web page at http://www.bom.gov.au . The Queensland Flood Warning Centre website is http://www.bom.gov.au/qld/flood .

Telephone Weather
Flood Warnings are available through a recorded voice retrieval system, along with a wide range of other weather related and climate information.

Main Directory Phone 1900 955 360
Flood Warnings Phone 1300 659 219

Telephone Weather Services Call Charges:
1900 numbers: 77c per minute incl. GST; 1300 numbers: Low call cost - around 27.5c incl. GST.
(More from international, satellite, mobile or public phones)

Interpreting Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins

Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins contain observed river heights for a selection of the river height monitoring locations. The time at which the river reading has been taken is given together with its tendency (e.g. rising, falling, steady or at its peak). The Flood Warnings may also contain predictions in the form of minor, moderate or major flooding for a period in the future. River Height Bulletins also give the height above or below the road bridge or causeway for each river station located near a road crossing. 

One of the simplest ways of understanding what the actual or predicted river height means is to compare the height given in the Warning or Bulletin with the height of previous floods at that location. 

The table below summarises the flood history of the Bulloo River basin - it contains the flood gauge heights of the more significant recent floods.

River height station
Adavale 4.80 3.51 4.80 5.00 4.40 5.55 5.40 4.40 4.10
Milroy 6.52 5.81 5.30  - 5.30 5.95 - - -
Quilpie 7.85 6.53 5.20 6.22 6.16 6.20 6.25 6.20 6.43 5.93
South Comongin 5.36 3.70 5.40 5.20 5.25 5.40 5.10 5.50 4.80
Autumnvale 8.02 7.72 7.25 6.77 7.84 6.45 8.22 6.56
Thargomindah 6.25 6.78 6.00 6.08 5.70 5.34 6.08 5.15 6.48 5.23
All heights are in metres on flood gauges.

Historical flood heights for all river stations in the Bulloo River Floodwarning network, as shown on the map, are available from the Bureau of Meteorology upon request.


Major flooding requires a large scale rainfall situation over the Bulloo River catchment. The following can be used as a rough guide to the likelihood of flooding in the catchment :

75mm in 24 hours over isolated areas, with lesser rains of 50mm over more extensive areas will cause stream rises and the possibility of minor flooding. If lesser rainfalls have been recorded in the previous 24 to 72 hrs, then moderate to major flooding may develop.

100mm in 24 hours will cause isolated flooding in the immediate area of the heavy rain.

General 100mm or heavier falls in 24 hours over a wide area will most likely cause major flooding. In the lower reaches these falls may cause relatively fast initial rises at Autumnvale and Thargomindah, before upstream rises occur. 

Flood Classifications

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Each river height station has a pre-determined flood classification which details heights on gauges at which minor, moderate and major flooding commences. Other flood heights may also be defined which indicate at what height the local road crossing or town becomes affected by floodwaters. 

The table below shows the flood classifications for selected river height stations in the Bulloo River catchment.

River Height Station
First Report Height
Crossing Height
Minor Flood Level
Crops & Grazing
Moderate Flood Level
Towns and Houses
Major Flood Level
Adavale 1.5 2.20 (X) 2.6 2.6 3.6 4.2 4.2
Milroy 3.0 3.0 3.5 4.0 5.0 5.0
Quilpie 2.0 4.60 (B) 3.0 4.0 4.0(d/s) 5.9 5.0(d/s)
South Comongin 1.0 1.20 (B) 3.1 3.1 4.0(d/s) 5.0(d/s)
Autumnvale 4.5 5.5 7.0
Thargomindah 3.0 4.10 (B) 4.0 4.5 4.5 6.0 5.5

All heights are in metres on flood gauges

(B) = Bridge  (X) = Crossing  (d/s) = Downstream

The above details are correct at the time of preparing this document. Up-to-date flood classifications and other details for all flood warning stations in the network are at:


Catchment Map showing the Bulloo River flood warning network

Click here to view map as:          PNG           PDF(481K bytes)

For further information, contact:
The Regional Director, Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 413, Brisbane Q 4001