The Macquarie valley

Aerial photograph of a lagoon in the South Marsh, Macquarie Marshes

A lagoon in the South Marsh. Photo D Love OEH

The Macquarie valley covers more than 75,000 square kilometres in the state’s north and extends from the Blue Mountains to the Barwon River Plains.

Planning for the future

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) is developing a Long Term Water Plan for the Macquarie and Castlereagh catchments.

The plan intends to improve the management of water for the environment and maximise outcomes from available flows.

Aims and objectives spanning five, 10 and 20 year timeframes will be included in the plan and guide the use of environmental water under a range of conditions.

OEH will work with the Environmental Water Advisory Group as part of the process with local, traditional and scientific knowledge informing the final plan.

Important environmental assets including fish, bird and plants will be identified and objectives set to support their ongoing and improved health.

Ecosystem functions such as waterbird breeding, fish movement and nutrient cycling will also be identified as part of the process.

The Long Term Water Plan is one of nine being developed for catchments across the state. It forms part of the NSW Government's commitment to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

At the same time, DPI Water is developing Water Resource Plans for the nine catchments, outlining the rules for access and use of consumptive and planned environmental water.

Together, they aim to achieve an agreed balance of outcomes between the environment and other water users.

Bird life booms in the Macquarie Marshes

The winter–spring period of 2016 saw above average rainfall and river flows in the Macquarie valley, resulting in a significant waterbird breeding event.

Read more

More information

For more information go to Long Term Water Plans or contact:

Francesca Bowman - Office of Environment and Heritage
Phone 02 6883 5304

Important wetlands

The Macquarie and Castlereagh catchments are home to the iconic Macquarie marshes – one of the largest remaining semi-permanent wetland systems in inland Australia, which has hosted some of the largest-scale waterbird breeding ever recorded on the continent.

The breeding is assisted by targeted delivery of environmental water to the creeks, rivers, lagoons and wetlands that make up the unique Macquarie valley ecosystem.

Environmental water planning

The Macquarie and Cudgegong Regulated Water Sharing Plan establishes a total allowance for environmental water of 160,000 megalitres, which accrues water at the same rate as general security water holdings. It is complemented by over 170 gigalitres of licensed water managed by the NSW and Commonwealth governments, recovered through voluntary buyback and infrastructure improvement programs.

These environmental flows are co-ordinated by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) in consultation with the Macquarie-Cudgegong Environmental Flows Reference Group (EFRG), which is made up of community members, alongside other government and non-government organisations.

To deliver the flows, the OEH collaborates with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and NSW Office of Water.

While environmental water in the Macquarie plays a vital role in supporting the Macquarie Marshes and river, the flows are insufficient to meet the environmental needs of all the water-dependent ecosystems in the catchment. Flows from tributary streams downstream of Burrendong Dam, such as the Bell, Little and Talbragar rivers, as well as spills from Burrendong Dam, are critical in sustaining the health of the catchment.

Along with the marshes, flows are targeted to sites such as the Cudgegong and Macquarie river channels, and the Lower Macquarie river downstream of the marshes, with potential for the unregulated distributary systems of the Lower Crooked and Marra creeks.

Environmental flows in the Macquarie valley are mainly used to:

  • support riverine and wetland ecosystems along the river system, including River Red Gum forests, reed beds and water couch meadows
  • support critical water-needs of colonies of nesting waterbird species in the marshes, including egrets, ibis, cormorants and herons
  • provide feeding and breeding habitat for a range of waterbirds including ducks, herons, bitterns, magpie geese and brolgas
  • provide opportunities for breeding and movement of native fish, including Murray cod and golden perch
  • provide a harbour for several species of international migratory shorebirds that visit the catchment each summer from the northern hemisphere.

A number of sites within the Macquarie valley are recognised under international agreements, including parts of the Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve, and two privately-owned properties Wilgara and U-Block, which are listed in the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (known as Ramsar).

Additionally, more than 500 Aboriginal cultural heritage sites are recorded in the Macquarie Marshes area, which is the traditional country of the Wailwan people.

Environmental water planning in the Macquarie valley is supported by the following regulations and plans:

The allocation of environmental water is outlined in Environmental water use in New South Wales: Outcomes 2015-16 (PDF 9.2MB) report.

View a map (PDF 377KB) showing the location of environmental watering areas in the Macquarie Valley.

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Page last updated: 08 September 2017