Nature conservation

Native animals

Changing water regimes and wetland habitat on the Lower Murrumbidgee floodplain

The Murrumbidgee River is 1690 km long, flowing west from the Snowy Mountains to join the Murray River near Balranald, on the NSW-Victoria border. Its most extensive wetland area is the Lower Murrumbidgee floodplain, which stretches west from around Hay.

The native plants and animals which live on the floodplain, and the migratory waterbirds which visit during wet periods, all depend on natural cycles of flood and drought. However, these have been disrupted by water resource development: dams, levee banks and other irrigation devices.

This report traces the extent of that disruption, from 1855 to 1998. Researched and written by NPWS scientists, it shows that, over 140 years:

  • Around 58 per cent of the floodplain wetlands have been lost, much of the damage occuring between 1975 and 1998
  • Of the wetlands that still remain, 44 per cent are degraded, and the floodplain vegetation has little chance of returning to health
  • Waterbird numbers have collapsed by more than 80 per cent since 1983, also indicating great declines in the invertebrates, fish, frogs and water plants which the birds feed on.

Documents to download

Changing water regimes and wetland habitat on the Lower Murrumbidgee floodplain of the Murrumbidgee River in arid Australia (PDF - 1.3MB)

The format and structure of this publication may have been adapted for web delivery.

Page last updated: 13 December 2013