Topping up time for our native fish in Ewenmar Creek

As the big dry drags on, the NSW and Commonwealth governments in partnership with the Tenandra Scheme has completed the delivery of water for the environment to Ewenmar Creek to support native fish. Four isolated pools over a 15-kilometre reach of Ewenmar Creek have now been reconnected with the last remaining water so native fish can survive.

Ewenmar Creek after flow

The Macquarie-Cudgegong Environmental Water Advisory Group (EWAG) which includes local community members, advised on the use of the small volume of water remaining in environmental water accounts be used to replenish water levels in key fish refuge locations in the Macquarie catchment.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) in partnership with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and the Tenandra Scheme, delivered water for the environment over the last month to help native fish in the Methalibar Weir Pool in Ewenmar Creek, near Old Bundemar Station on the Macquarie River, survive the ongoing drought.

"The water delivery has reconnected four isolated pools over a 15-kilometre reach of Ewenmar Creek allowing the fish to move between the refuge pools, improving habitat and replenishing the food supply," OEH Senior Wetland and Rivers Conservation Officer Paul Keyte said.

"Keeping the fish population in these remaining refuge pools will support breeding and population recovery once the drought breaks and flows return," he said.

"Ewenmar Creek is renowned by local anglers as an excellent place to find eel-tailed catfish.

"The creek is also home to a range of smaller-bodied native fish.

"Because conditions have been so dry many refuge pools have dried down, which makes the remaining sites like the one on Ewenmar Creek especially important for helping keep these native fish species alive.

"If fish in the Ewenmar Creek near Warren could talk, I'm sure they'd say "thanks for topping up our water pools, we were starting to get a bit worried".

"Fish can be especially vulnerable during dry conditions as water courses become isolated shallow pools, making fish vulnerable to predators and poor water quality", Mr Keyte said.

With no flows since 2016, water levels within the residual pools of the Ewenmar Creek continued to drop to low levels and water quality was declining, causing concern for the health of native fish.

"When water stops flowing its quality starts to deteriorate. If the oxygen levels fall too low, then native fish cannot survive," Mr Keyte said.

Environmental water delivery to the creek began in late April to improve habitat condition for the fish and other animals reliant of these important refuge pools to survive.

The Tenandra Scheme (an off-river private irrigator scheme) agreed to deliver the water for the environment into the Ewenmar Creek via their network of channels.

“This is a government, private sector and community approach which goes to show the value of collaboration”, Tenandra Scheme Chairman Angus O’Brien said.

“We are using irrigation infrastructure for environmental purposes when water is hard to come by. Our community values the river and the environment more than most and we are thrilled to be able to help any way we can”, Mr O’Brien said.

Photos available for download: Topping up time for native fish in Ewenmar Creek