Environmental issues


Murray and Lower Darling valleys environmental water

river in centre foreground reflecting sky and trees with blue sky and large trees in background

Following an environmental water release, an ephemeral creek on the lower Murray River near Wentworth, NSW, fills in 2010 for the first time in almost a decade. Photo: Sascha Healy, OEH.

The Murray River forms a 1700-kilometre border between NSW and Victoria and continues downstream into South Australia. The Murray Valley includes a large anabranch system - the Edward-Wakool system - which creates an intricate network of streams, creeks and wetlands.

The NSW portion of the Murray and Lower Darling valleys has an area of 98,300 square kilometres which contains a mosaic of wetland types, ranging from ephemeral wetlands to permanently wet lagoons and rivers.

The Millewa, Werai and Koondrook-Perricoota Forests on the mid-Murray River, are listed under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (the Ramsar Convention). The ephemeral Darling Anabranch and its associated lakes are listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia.

View a map showing the location of environmental watering areas in the Murray and Lower Darling valleys (Murray2013.pdf, 830KB).

The Murray Valley wetlands and rivers have important Aboriginal cultural heritage values, with more than 968 cultural heritage sites recorded. Sites have been recorded in the Millewa Forest (Cummeragunja people), Werai Forest (Deniliquin people) and the eastern portion of Koondrook Forest (Cummeragunja and Moama people) and include scar trees, burials, shell middens and oven mounds.

The Living Murray icon sites

The Living Murray icon sites within NSW include the Millewa Forest, Koondrook-Perricoota Forest, the eastern section of Chowilla Floodplain and the River Murray Channel.

Watering of these sites is coordinated by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and undertaken in conjunction with the relevant states.

Benefits of environmental water

Environmental water in the Murray and Lower Darling valleys supports:

  • wetland vegetation communities, including one of Australia’s largest stands of river red gum forest, as well as river cooba, black box and lignum, common reed, moira grass, spike rush and giant rush
  • habitat for fauna and flora species listed in the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, including Macquarie perch, Murray cod, trout cod, painted snipe, regent honeyeater, superb parrot, regent parrot (eastern), southern bell frog, small scurf-pea, mountain swainson-pea and floating swamp wallaby-grass
  • the lowland Murray River and lowland Darling River, which have been declared endangered ecological communities under the NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994.

Murray Lower Darling Environmental Water Advisory Group

The Murray Lower Darling Environmental Water Advisory Group advises OEH on environmental water planning and delivery. The advisory group is currently chaired by the Murray Catchment Management Authority.


Environmental water planning is supported by the following key documents and plans:

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office also produces plans and reports in relation to its water holdings in the Murray and Lower Darling.

Reports on environmental water use

Environmental water use for 2013-14 is reported in Environmental water use in NSW: Outcomes 2013-14.

Page last updated: 04 February 2015