Annual environmental water priorities in the Murray and Lower Darling catchments

Healthy habitat for waterbirds and flows for fish will be the focus of managed watering events in the Murray catchment.

Priorities for 2018–19

Water for the environment will also be delivered to targeted private wetlands to support and maintain habitat for endangered southern bell frogs and provide refuge for local waterbirds.

Availability of planned and licenced water is expected to be limited in the Murray catchment early in the 2018–19 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.
Drier conditions are forecast for the Lower Darling with low to no inflows currently forecast.

Low inflows to Menindee and construction of temporary emergency block banks will limit the ability of water managers to deliver water for native fish and other aquatic dependent plants and animals.

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 2018–19 can be found in the Annual Environmental Watering Priorities 2018–19 (PDF 2MB).

Highlights from 2017–18

While rainfall was below average in 2017–18, water storages were near capacity, paving the way for the delivery of 316 gigalitres of water for the environment across 18 events in the Murray and Lower Darling, including waterways, floodplains and multiple private property wetlands.

Water manager Paul Childs said significant ecological outcomes were achieved with flows supporting breeding and movement of Murray cod in the Lower Darling.

The second largest managed event took place with more than 215 gigalitres of water delivered to the Murray River and connected Millewa wetlands and the Edward-Wakool system.

‘These flows were coordinated between the Commonwealth, NSW, Victorian and South Australian governments, providing connectivity to boost food production, promote native fish movement and breeding’, Mr Childs said.

‘In the Millewa precinct, these flows supported Moira grass germination and seeding. The Moira grass plains in the Millewa are a critical wetland type and wetland of international importance recognised under the Ramsar Convention.

‘Flows recharged groundwater reserves, supported a myriad of wetland plants and provided important habitat both instream and across the surrounding floodplains.

‘Managed flows also helped sustain bird breeding events, including colonial-nesting ibis, spoonbills, cormorants, darters and the threatened Australasian bittern’, he said.

The threatened southern bell frog (a target species under the Saving Our Species program) was the focus of water delivered into 11 private wetlands during spring using the Murray Irrigation system and private pumping. Southern bell frogs were recorded at all targeted wetlands and juveniles observed at several sites indicating successful breeding.