Bottle Bend on road to recovery

Water is flowing into a large drought affected wetland in western NSW, providing a life-saving drink to the iconic site.

Bottle Bend Reserve during environmental watering

Bottle Bend Reserve is a 1600-hectare nature reserve on the Murray River, south of the Sturt Highway, near Monak. The reserve contains significant black box (Eucalyptus largiflorens) woodlands, stands of lignum and wetland vegetation, which provide habitat for a wide variety of native animals.

Since 2013, water for the environment has supported a significant improvement in the health of the floodplain ecosystem at Bottle Bend Reserve (the former Gol Gol State Forest).

This year, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (the Department) is delivering up to 2000 megalitres of water for the environment via pumps to a large portion of the reserve floodplain. 

Department water manager Sascha Healy said the water would benefit black box trees and other native plants, including lignum, cane grass and spike rushes, as well as numerous waterbirds and other wetland dependant animals.

‘The environmental flow will also help manage acid sulphate affected soils in the lagoon which risk being exposed due to declining water levels.

‘A small portion of the water delivered to the floodplain, will be allowed to drain into and inundate parts of the acid sulphate affected lagoon. However, a larger volume of the water will be allowed to drain back into the Murray River providing nutrients and food for native fish and other aquatic organisms,’ she said.

While water levels were low, rehabilitation works have been carried out to help reconnect the lagoon to the river.

Chair of the Bottle Bend Land Manager group, Wentworth Shire Councillor Jane MacAllister, said they whole-heartedly supported the watering initiative.

‘Many of our community members recall the time, about 15 years ago, when the wetland began drying out and the acid sulphate soils turned bright orange. The stench of sulphur was strong and the water quality was terrible,’ Cr MacAllister said.

‘Toxins were being released into the water and the native fish, birds and frogs were suffering.

‘Bottle Bend is located upstream of several town water supplies and local wineries, so the risk there was significant for both people and the environment.

‘As this is an important cultural site for local Aboriginal people, local elders described the wetland at that time as "inflamed" and "sore". Seeing the site like that was painful to them.

‘For all of those reasons the community committee supports this flow of water so we can support our natural environment and the plants, animals and people that rely on it,’ she said.

Water for the late autumn event has been provided from NSW Government environmental water holdings. The action is supported by the Murray Lower Darling Environmental Water Advisory Group.