Annual environmental water priorities in the Murray and Lower Darling catchments

The main aims of watering in 2019-20 will be to maintain habitat that supports colonial nesting waterbirds, provide refuge and dispersal flows for native fish, support wetland plants and enhance connectivity in the Murray catchment.

Priorities for 2019–20

Water for the environment will be delivered to targeted private wetlands that provide critical habitat for southern bell frogs and to promote reproduction and recruitment of vegetation and other wildlife. Other flows are planned for the Murray Valley national and regional parks to support sites that contain nesting Australasian bitterns. 

Availability of planned and licensed water is expected to be limited in the Murray catchment early in the 2019–20 water year due to a lack of inflows into the major storages during autumn and winter.

Below average rainfall is forecast for winter-spring in the Murray catchment, coupled with warmer than average temperatures with the possibility of a late autumn break.

Drought conditions are also forecast to continue for the Lower Darling.  If wetter conditions eventuate, the focus for managers of water for the environment will be supporting native fish populations within the Menindee and Lower Darling system.

Flows are planned from the Hume Dam through to South Australia for native fish (particularly Murray cod and golden perch breeding and recruitment), vegetation and instream productivity.

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 2019–20 can be found in the Annual Environmental Watering Priorities 2019–20 (PDF 2MB).

Highlights from 2018–19

While rainfall was below average in 2018-19, a number of water for the environment deliveries were made in the Murray catchment. Some of these flows include a delivery into the Tuppal Creek, between Tocumwal and Deniliquin. For decades now Tuppal Creek has been disconnected from the Murray River apart from during very large flood events. The Department’s water for the environment team is working with Murray Irrigation and the local farming community to reinstate the frequency and duration of small to medium sized instream flows into the creek by upgrading Murray Irrigation’s water delivery infrastructure.

Water manager Paul Childs said the Department also worked in collaboration with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and landholders to deliver water into the Thule Creek. Flows into the Thule are now much less frequent than the natural flow regime and are supplemented using Murray Irrigation’s supply system. Last year, the Department funded works to upgrade the Thule Creek Escape so the maximum flow rate could be increased from 40 megalitres per day to 130 megalitres per day.

‘Our program also delivered water into several private property wetlands in the central Murray and lower Murray. The delivery of this water supported recovery efforts for the endangered southern bell frog. This is one of the NSW Government’s Saving Our Species projects which is being managed in collaboration with local landholders, Murray Irrigation, the Department’s Environmental Water Management and Ecosystems and Threatened Species teams’, Mr Childs said.