The Murray and Lower Darling valleys

The Murray and Lower Darling valleys are home to a diverse range of wetland ecosystems, plants and animals.

Planning for the future

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

The plan aims 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.

More information

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

Iwona Conlan - Office of Environment and Heritage
Phone: 02 6229 7158

Children play alongside the Edward River at Deniliquin. Photo N Childs OEH

Working together

The Murray and Lower Darling valleys cover a combined area of 98,300km2 and include the world's largest stand of River Red Gums and a 1700-kilometre stretch of Australia's longest river, the Murray.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) is working with local communities to improve the health of wetlands, rivers and floodplains in the catchment.

Landholders, community members, Aboriginal representatives, local government and partner agencies all form part of an environmental water advisory group which meets regularly to discuss proposed watering events, identify priority sites and future opportunities.

Helping vegetation grow

With the support of landowners and irrigation corporations, wetlands on public and private land are watered using irrigation infrastructure. These flows support significant vegetation communities including:

  • River Red Gum
  • river cooba
  • Black Box and lignum
  • common reed
  • Moira grass, spike rush
  • giant rush.

Supporting protected species

Healthy vegetation provides ideal habitat for a number of threatened and protected species, including:

  • Macquarie perch
  • Murray cod, trout cod
  • painted snipe
  • regent honeyeater
  • superb parrot
  • regent parrot (eastern)
  • the Southern bell frog
  • fishing bat
  • small scurf-pea
  • mountain Swainson-pea
  • floating swamp wallaby grass.

Sustained watering events provide ideal conditions for large-scale waterbird breeding, including species listed on bilateral migratory bird agreements between Australia and Japan, China and the Republic of Korea. Species including the eastern great egret, cattle egret, glossy ibis and white-bellied sea-eagle have bred successfully during events supported by environmental water.

Important sites

The Murray and Lower Darling valleys are home to several nationally and internationally significant sites.

The Werai Forest near Deniliquin. Photo E Wilson OEH

The Werai Forest near Deniliquin. Photo E Wilson OEH

The Millewa, Werai and Koondrook-Perricoota forests are listed under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (the Ramsar Convention) and in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia , which also includes the Darling Anabranch lakes.

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.

The lowland Murray and Darling rivers have been declared ecologically endangered and are also targeted for environmental watering.

Indigenous connection

The Murray and Lower Darling valley wetlands and rivers carry very important Aboriginal cultural heritage values, with more than 968 cultural heritage sites formally recorded. Recorded sites include scar trees, burials, shell middens and oven mounds that are a legacy of a long and continuing Aboriginal occupation of these lands. Environmental watering provides many contemporary cultural benefits, including sustaining plants protected and used through time by Aboriginal people for food, medicine, fibre, shelter, utensils, food gathering, and ceremonies. Maintenance of live trees bearing cultural markings and features is enhanced by access to adequate water, and improved tree condition will also provide greater resilience to the impacts of fire and insects.

Aboriginal people continue to contribute important knowledge to management of environmental water, for example by identifying sites and cultural values that are likely to benefit from watering. The Murray Lower Darling River Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN) , Murray Local Land Services and Western Local Land Services have members on the OEH Murray Lower Darling Environmental Water Advisory Group. Information about water and its importance for cultural values is shared between the EWAG and Aboriginal groups through these members, and via associated groups such as the Murray Aboriginal Technical Group (MATG) coordinated by the Murray Local Land Services. Ways of improving communication and connection to cultural outcomes will continue to be explored as opportunity permits.

Plans and reports on environmental water use

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

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

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

The Cooperative Management of Environmental Water to Improve River and Wetland Health in NSW document provides an explanation of the roles and responsibilities of key agencies working with environmental water in NSW.

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

Page last updated: 08 September 2017