Environmental issues


The Living Murray Initiative

The Living Murray program (TLM) was established in 2002 in response to concerns over the declining health of the River Murray system. The program aims to achieve a healthy working River Murray system, which includes returning water to the river's environment, and is one of the most significant river restoration programs undertaken in Australia. TLM is a partnership between the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian, ACT and Australian governments. The investment of $700 million in water recovery projects has recovered almost 500 gigalitres (billion litres) of water to help improve the health of six icon sites. NSW icon sites include the Barmah-Millewa and Koondrook-Perricoota Forests. The program is also investing around $318 million in environmental works and measures infrastructure such as regulating structures, water delivery channels and fishways to make better use of water for the environment at the icon sites.

NSW Market Purchase Measure

In 2007 a NSW proposal to recover up to 125 GL of water entitlements in the NSW Murray, Lower Darling and Murrumbidgee water markets was approved by the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council. This proposal was funded by NSW, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, the Australian Government, Victoria and South Australia, in accordance with The Living Murray Business Plan.

The NSW Market Purchase Measure purchased 115 GL of water through advertised expressions of interest for $203 million. The water purchased through this program is now being managed by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to achieve environmental outcomes at 'icon' sites along the Murray River.

The NSW Market Purchase Measure provided an opportunity to survey participants who had responded to expressions of interest. The survey aimed to collect land-use and socio-economic information as well as specific information regarding current water use, future intentions and opinions on the water purchase process. For more information download The Living Murray NSW Market Purchase Measure: Survey results (2010-50Watermarketpurchasemeasure.pdf; 1.56 MB).

Darling Anabranch Pipeline and Environmental Flow Project

In addition to water purchase under The Living Murray, the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) also administers the Darling Anabranch Pipeline and Environmental Flow project. 

The Great Darling Anabranch (the Anabranch) is the ancestral path of the Darling River, extending 460 km from its junction with the Darling River (south of the Menindee Lakes) to the Murray River, below Wentworth.

This project aims to return some 460 km of degraded water course along the Anabranch to a more natural ephemeral system. Water has been supplied to the Anabranch for stock and domestic purposes almost every year since the 1960s when the Menindee Lakes Scheme was developed. This has meant that volumes of up to 50,000 ML were released down the Anabranch from Lake Cawndilla. This water ponded in 17 weir pools and approximately 3000 ML/annum was extracted by the 41 landholders adjacent to the Anabranch and used for stock and non-potable domestic supply. The remainder was accounted for by evaporation, wildlife use, uptake by riparian vegetation and seepage.

The project had three key stages:

  1. Stage 1 - construction of a stock and domestic water supply pipeline, pump stations and associated on-farm works to supply landholder needs (completed in February 2007)
  2. Stage 2 - modification and removal of in-stream structures to allow the free passage of environmental water (to be completed by June 2009)
  3. Stage 3  - reinstating an adaptively managed ephemeral flow regime (ongoing).

NSW is implementing the project, which has a budget of approximately $54 million, with investment support from the Australian, Victorian and South Australian Governments and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. It is the first major infrastructure project in the Murray-Darling Basin to provide significant water savings. 

The pipeline phase of the work, which was completed in February 2007, cost approximately $28 million and has saved an average of approximately 47 gigalitres (GL) of water per year (1 GL = 1000 ML = approximate volume of 1000 Olympic swimming pools).

In addition to these efficiency savings, the project also provides improved water supply to landholders and enhanced environmental outcomes. The benefits to landholders, who in recent years were drought declared, include a more secure and efficient stock and domestic water supply and improved water quality supporting farm viability. When environmental water flows to the Anabranch, the environmental outcomes include improved habitat for native fish, yabbies and other aquatic biota, improved water quality, and reduced frequency of blue-green algal blooms. An Environmental Flows Committee has been formed to provide advice on the management and monitoring of environmental water.


April 2009 (AnabranchApr2009.pdf; 1750 KB)

January 2009 (AnabranchJan2009.pdf; 1000 KB)

More information

Visit the NSW Office of Water website for more details about a range of other programs and activities in the Murray-Darling Basin as a whole.


Page last updated: 17 October 2012