Annual environmental water priorities in the Murray and Lower Darling catchments

In 2020-21 water managers will continue to build on gains of previous years by maintaining habitat that supports colonial nesting waterbirds, providing connectivity, refuge and dispersal flows for large-bodied native fish, and supporting river red gum forest ecosystems.

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 Murray and Lower Darling/Barka catchments this year.

In 2020–21, water managers will continue to build on the gains of previous years through the effective and efficient management of water for the environment.

Water for the environment will target a range of outcomes, including the maintenance of habitat that supports the nationally threatened Australasian bittern, improving conditions for small-bodied native fish, providing connectivity, refuge and dispersal flows for large-bodied native fish, and supporting river red gum forest ecosystems.

Murray River multi-site flows (up to 150 gigalitres) are planned from Hume Dam through to South Australia to support native fish (particularly Murray cod and golden perch breeding and recruitment), vegetation and instream productivity. A spring Murray cod spawning flow is planned for the Lower Darling/Barka River to help restore native fish numbers following the catastrophic fish kills that occurred in the system from 2018 to 2020.

Connectivity flows will be provided between Tuppal Creek and the Edward River for native fish and carbon exchange, and between the Thule Creek and Wakool River for native fish, vegetation and carbon exchange. The management of water for the environment provides flexibility to respond to rainfall and inflow events that may occur during the year.

Further details on watering priorities for 2020–21 can be found in the Annual Environmental Watering Priorities 2020–21 (PDF 3.7MB).

Highlights from 2019–20

During 2019–20, water managers delivered flows into Tuppal Creek, between Tocumwal and Deniliquin. Works to upgrade the capacity of Murray Irrigation’s water delivery infrastructure were completed and commissioned using NSW and Commonwealth environmental water. Department of Planning Industry and Environment (the Department) is working with Murray Irrigation and the Tuppal Creek landholders to develop a works program allowing higher flows to move unimpeded along the creek and improve passage for large-bodied native fish species such as Murray cod.

The Department, Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and landholders, collaborated in 2019–20 to upgrade the Thule Creek Escape, increasing the maximum flow rate. Monitoring showed the return flows were rich in carbon, nutrients and a diversity of bugs and microbes, boosting the quality and abundance of food for top-end predators like Murray cod and golden perch.

The Department also delivered water into several private property wetlands in the central Murray a lower Murray to support recovery efforts for the endangered southern bell frog, being one of the NSW Government’s Saving Our Species projects.