Peel flow to target water quality and river health

Tamworth residents may notice a slight increase in river levels over the next fortnight as water is delivered to a section of the Peel River downstream of Chaffey Dam.

Water flowing in the Peel River downstream of Chaffey Dam wall.

While wetter conditions have provided good tributary flows in much of the Peel River system, the 7.5 kilometre section upstream of Woolomin has not benefitted.

Only stagnant pools, covered in recent weeks by thick scum, provide the last remaining habitat for native fish and other water dependent wildlife.

To connect these pools and improve poor water quality affected by persistent low or no flows for the last two years, a small volume of water allocated for the environment is being released from Chaffey Dam.

The release will have no impact on Tamworth’s water security and minimal impact on future allocations, reducing current dam levels by just 1.5 per cent. It represents less than one-third of the total available water for the environment allocated in the dam.

Wildlife likely to benefit include Murray cod, silver perch, freshwater catfish, platypus and rakali.

Interim Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, Hilton Taylor, said the release would give these species a boost, helping them recover from the drought.

“Providing food and access to more habitat in autumn will help them through the winter, so they’ll be in a good position to breed come springtime,” Mr Taylor said.

NSW Government Wetlands and Rivers Conservation Officer Paul Keyte said the river section provides critical drought refuge for native fish and platypus.

“Releasing a small flow in the river now aims to support its value as a drought refuge by improving the habitat quality and food supply within this section of the river,” Mr Keyte said.

The release, made up of Commonwealth and NSW water for the environment, will also support Murray cod that were rescued during the drought and recently returned to the river near Tamworth as part of the NSW Native Fish Drought Response effort.

For those wanting to see the water-release in action, it is anticipated flows will reach the Woolomin Park bridge on Wednesday 26 May.