This brochure describes
the flood warning system operated by the Australian Government, Bureau
of Meteorology for the Gilbert 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.
The Gilbert River catchment is located in north west Queensland and covers an area of approximately 47,000 square kilometres. The river rises in the Great Dividing Range approximately 150 kilometres southeast of Georgetown. The river flows in a northwesterly direction and is joined by its major tributary, the Einasleigh River, downstream of Strathmore, before finally entering the Gulf of Carpentaria in a river delta 100 kilometres wide. The other main tributary, the Etheridge River, joins the Einasleigh River downstream of Georgetown, which is the only town in this vast catchment. Smaller settlements can be found at Forsayth, Mt Surprise and Einasleigh. Floods normally develop in the headwaters of the Gilbert and Einasleigh Rivers, however general heavy rainfall situations can develop from monsoonal and cyclonic influences which can result in widespread flooding, particularly in the lower reaches below Strathmore.
The record major flood of January 1974 and the floods of February 1991 and in January and February 2009, caused widespread road closures and inundation of properties throughout the catchment.
Previous flood information for the Gilbert River is rather limited. Peak flood heights are available from the early 1970's, including the major events recorded in 1974, 1991 and 2009.
The Bureau of Meteorology operates a flood warning system for the Gilbert River based on rainfall and river height observations network as shown on the map. The network consists of a combination 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 Spanner Waterhole, Kidston Dam, Einasleigh, Mount Surprise, Routh River, Roseglen and at Rockfields, which are operated by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines.
The Bureau's Flood Warning Centre issues Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins for the Gulf Rivers, including the Gilbert River, during flood events. Generalised flood warnings may be issued when widespread minor flood levels are recorded.
The Etheridge and Carpentaria Shire Councils may be able to provide further information on flooding in your area of the Gilbert River catchment.
Flood Warnings and Bulletins
The Bureau of Meteorology issues Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins for the Gulf Rivers 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 :
Internet/World Wide Web
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 Gilbert River basin - it contains the flood gauge heights of the more significant recent floods.
Historical flood heights for all river stations in the Gilbert River Floodwarning network, as shown on the map, are available from the Bureau of Meteorology upon request.
At each flood warning river height station, the severity of flooding is described as minor, moderate or major according to the effects caused in the local area or in nearby downstream areas. Terms used in Flood Warnings are based on the following definitions.
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 Gilbert River catchment.
(B) = Bridge (X) = Crossing
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:
Flood gauge information
For the latest rainfall and river height conditions please use the following link:
For the latest rainfall and river height network map please use the following link:Network maps
For further information, contact:
The Regional Hydrology Manager, Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 413, Brisbane Q 4001