The combined efforts of community members and government organisations are having a positive impact on the health and resilience of local rivers, wetlands and floodplains. The Murrumbidgee Environmental Water Advisory Group (EWAG) provides advice on the management of water for the environment within the catchment.
The group is made up of community representatives, a range of stakeholder groups and government departments. It provides a point of interface between the community and the Commonwealth and State governments and is an opportunity for high-level involvement in the management of water for the environment in the Murrumbidgee catchment.
The Murrumbidgee EWAG's recent achievements include:
- a five-year long term intervention monitoring agreement with Charles Sturt University and other partners
- environmental watering throughout the Lowbidgee
- delivery of water for the environment to Yarradda Lagoon (mid-Murrumbidgee wetlands)
- environmental watering of the Ramsar-listed Fivebough swamp, which supports Australasian bittern breeding
- landholder agreement for potential piggyback flows for the nationally important mid-Murrumbidgee wetlands.
The group faces a number of challenges including:
- proposed changes to the Murrumbidgee Water Sharing Plan
- engagement of the community and farmers to promote a better understanding of environmental water management
- setting a strategic approach to future use and delivery of water for the environment.
Senior Environmental Water Manager James Maguire said the Murrumbidgee EWAG played an important role in guiding the decision making process.
'The EWAG recently inspected newly inundated wetlands in the North Redbank, Yanga National Park and Nimmie-Caira systems, located on the Lowbidgee floodplain between Maude and Balranald,' he said.
'The application of Commonwealth and Department of Planning, Industry and Environment water in these systems has recently triggered waterbird breeding in species such as egrets, cormorants, swans and ducks.
'The wetlands are also home to recovering populations of the threatened Southern bell frog, whose numbers are now on the increase following many years of strategic flow management.
'With the endorsement of the Murrumbidgee EWAG, work is underway to assess the role of return flows in the North Redbank system.'
In the Murrumbidgee valley, sources of water for the environment include three allowances established under the Water Sharing Plan for the Murrumbidgee Regulated River Water Source 2016, adaptive environmental water held by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (former Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH)) and allocations made available from entitlements held by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office.
The Murrumbidgee EWAG is made up of representatives from
- NSW Local Land Services (Riverina)
- the Aboriginal community
- the NSW Department of Primary Industries
- Lowbidgee League
- the WaterNSW’s Murrumbidgee Customer Service Committee
- Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists
- Nature Conservation Council of NSW
- Environment, Energy and Science