The Gwydir Environmental Water Advisory Group (EWAG) includes representatives from a diverse range of backgrounds, including the Aboriginal community, Local Land Services (North West), the NSW Department of Primary Industries, landholders from the Gingham, Lower Gwydir and Mallowa Creek Watercourses, Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association, an independent environment group, independent scientists and Water NSW.
The EWAG is chaired by Ken Flower, general manager of the North West Local Land Service, who strongly believes in the facilitation of community involvement in decisions on water for the environment allocations and use.
‘The committee presents a real opportunity to combine the input and expertise of community and various government departments and agencies,’ he said.
‘The key challenge and opportunity is to allow the community to see the benefits of water for the environment first hand,’ he said.
Senior wetlands conservation officer Daryl Albertson has seen the role of the advisory group expand since its inception in 2002.
‘In its early stages, the Gwydir EWAG provided advice to government on the use of water from a single environmental water entitlement - the environmental contingency allowance,’ Mr Albertson said.
‘Efforts were largely focused on supporting colonial waterbird breeding when it occurred in the Gwydir Wetlands.
‘In more recent times, committee membership has broadened in line with an increase in the portfolio of water for the environment and scope for its use across the Gwydir catchment.
‘The suite of watering sites now consists of assets in the Mallowa watercourse, native fish in the Mehi River and Carole Creek, as well as deliveries into the Gwydir wetlands for a variety of outcomes, including waterbirds.’
The activities of the EWAG include:
- formulating a clear method for auditing all flows throughout the system
- developing the adaptive management framework for annual planning and decision-making
- full and transparent reporting of seasonal environmental watering activities
- delivery of environmental water to ensure the success of the large-scale colonial waterbird breeding events building the resilience of identified assets through a planned sequence of water deliveries.
Water managed by the EWAG is sourced from:
- the environmental contingency allowance under the Water Sharing Plan for the Gwydir Regulated River Water Source 2016
- adaptive water for the environment held by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage
- allocations made available from entitlements held by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder
The Gwydir Water Sharing Plan sets aside an environmental contingency allowance of up to 45,000 megalitres in Copeton Dam, accruing at the same rate as the general security entitlement.