Annual environmental water priorities in the Gwydir catchment

Water managers will focus on protecting key water dependent assets, such as native fish communities, and supporting the resilience of rivers and wetlands in the Gwydir catchment.

Priorities for 2020–21

The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast a shift toward wetter than average conditions and warmer than average temperatures through winter–spring 2020 in the Gwydir catchment.  

Water managers are optimistic that climatic conditions will continue to move toward a moderate forecast, across the Gwydir catchment in 2020–21. While availability of planned water for the environment is likely to be low, reserves of held Commonwealth and NSW water, along with carryover, are low to moderate.

In 2020–21, water managers will manage available water in response to the highly variable climatic nature of the Gwydir catchment.

This adaptive approach will include locally developed management principles and flow triggers to support any or all of the following:

  • fish communities in our priority river reaches, during extended dry periods
  • restoring natural river flows to downstream wetland communities
  • colonial waterbirds should flooding trigger a return of breeding
  • unplanned contingencies that require water for the environment to restore orrepair.

The native fish populations and aquatic communities in the priority river reaches include the  Carole Creek, Mehi and Gwydir River systems.

Further details on watering priorities for 2020–21 can be found in the Annual Environmental Watering Priorities 2020–21 (PDF 2.7MB).

Highlights from 2019–20

The Gwydir catchment has experienced a recent moderate change in water availability throughout the system. From 2016 to February 2020, the catchment experienced an extended dry period. Water for the environment was used to support rivers and wetlands through this dry phase.

During the 2019-20 water year water managers used water for the environment to protect priority river reaches in Carole, Mehi and Gwydir rivers from complete drying. A small watering event supported Whittaker’s Lagoon providing important refuge for local native fauna. In February 2020, rains and river flows returned to the system and water managers took this opportunity to restore natural flows to the Gwydir Wetlands.