Environmental issues

Water

Murrumbidgee Valley environmental water

large trees behind green grass

Wetland in Yanga National Park, Lowbidgee Floodplain. Photo: Rachael Thomas, OEH.

The Murrumbidgee catchment covers 81,527 square kilometres. This includes a 1,690-km stretch of river with surrounding wetlands and a number of national parks, nature reserves and conservation areas with important wetland values.

The wetlands and rivers of the Murrumbidgee catchment hold important Aboriginal cultural values.

Environmental water management areas

Environmental water deliveries focus on two main areas of the Murrumbidgee:

  • Murrumbidgee River Floodplain wetlands, located from Gundagai to the junction with Murray River - this includes the mid-Murrumbidgee wetlands site listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia
  • the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA) wetlands - this includes Fivebough and Tuckerbil Swamps listed under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (the ‘Ramsar Convention’) and Barren Box Swamp
  • the lower Murrumbidgee floodplain, known as the ‘Lowbidgee’, watered by diversions from the Maude Weir and Redbank Weir – this includes the Nimmie-Caira and Redbank systems, and the Yanga section of Murrumbidgee Valley National Park.

View a map showing the location of environmental watering areas in the Murrumbidgee valley (Mbidgee2013.pdf, 644KB).

The Murrumbidgee catchment contains 26 storage or diversion structures, making it one of Australia’s most regulated river systems, with substantial impacts on the water regime and availability of natural flows to floodplains and wetlands.

Benefits of environmental water

Environmental water in the Murrumbidgee valley supports:

  • wetland vegetation communities, including river red gum, black box, common reed, spike rush, cumbungi, river cooba, water lilies and water ribbons
  • habitat for a range of threatened, vulnerable and migratory birds, including Australian bittern, freckled duck, blue-billed duck, painted snipe, red-necked stint and superb parrot
  • habitat for the threatened southern bell frog
  • variable river flows and refuge areas required by native fish, including Murray cod and trout cod.

Catchment condition 2012-13

Environmental releases and floods in 2010-11 and 2011-12 have improved the previously poor condition of river-fed and floodplain wetlands, caused by river regulation and the Millennium Drought. Localised storm events led to minor flooding on numerous occasions which resulted in water remaining in many Murrumbidgee wetlands until late 2012 and early 2013.

Monitoring across an array of Murrumbidgee wetlands indicates that generally vegetation and aquatic fauna, including waterbirds, native fish and frogs, have responded well to the wetter conditions. An exception to this good response is aquatic vegetation in the mid-Murrumbidgee, which is absent in many of these wetlands. To improve this situation, protracted drying of wetlands should be avoided.

Available environmental water in 2013-14

Moderate conditions currently exist in the Murrumbidgee Catchment. At the start of the water year, Burrinjuck Dam was at 40% capacity, while Blowering Dam was at 69%, with high security allocations at 95% and general security allocations at 18%.

At least 200,000 ML of environmental water is available for use in the Murrumbidgee valley. Available environmental water is made up from NSW Environmental Water Holdings, Commonwealth environmental water and water provided under the water sharing plan. This volume does not include environmental water available under supplementary conditions.

Environmental watering aims 2013-14

The Murrumbidgee Environmental Water Allowance Reference Group (EWARG) has considered the conditions of assets, water availability and climate forecasts and recommended that, under a ‘moderate’ resource assessment, the management outcomes for the water year are to maintain ecological health and resilience.

For this primary management outcome, NSW has nominated four priority environmental watering actions for the 2013-14 water year. These priority areas include water delivery to the Western Lakes, mid-Murrumbidgee wetlands, Lowbidgee wetlands, Yanga National Park and Silver Pines complex located on Yanco Creek.

For further information contact Justen Simpson, Senior Team Leader, Environmental Water Governance, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage: phone (02) 6229 7140.

Annual Environmental Watering Plan 2013-14

The Murrumbidgee Valley Annual Environmental Watering Plan 2013-14 (130583MurrumAEWP.pdf, 1.8MB) outlines the environmental water scenarios in detail.

Environmental Water Advisory Group

The Murrumbidgee Environmental Water Allowance Reference Group advises OEH on environmental water planning and watering priorities and is chaired by the Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority.

Partners

OEH manages environmental water in the Murrumbidgee catchment in partnership with:

Plans

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

Reports on environmental water use

Environmental water use for 2012-13 is reported in the Environmental water use in NSW: Outcomes 2012-13.

Page last updated: 13 March 2014