Annual environmental water priorities in the Barwon-Darling watercourse

Water management in the Barwon-Darling watercourse will focus on connecting the river to the Lower Darling downstream of Menindee Lakes and support the recovery of native fish populations.

Priorities for 2020–21

The Bureau of Meteorology forecasts a shift toward wetter than average conditions and warmer than average temperatures through winter–spring 2020.

Connecting the Barwon–Darling River to the Lower Darling downstream of Menindee Lakes is a priority in 2020–21 and will support the recovery of native fish populations.

Following significant fish kills in the northern basin in 2019–20, a key priority will be to support remaining stocks of native fish and to provide opportunities for them to spawn and disperse into secure habitat.

Higher river freshes or overbank flows are required to provide useful watering for other floodplain vegetation, including Coolabah woodlands, and to promote regeneration of river red gums. These flows cannot be provided by regulated connection events.

We expect to see the diversity of waterbirds in riparian areas return to near-average levels, with abundance varying depending on the conditions in the whole northern basin.

The management of water for the environment provides the flexibility to respond to natural 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 3.1MB).

Highlights from 2019–20

Since 2016 the Barwon-Darling system has experienced generally low flows and drought conditions. This has placed pressure on refuge pools within the river system and the Menindee Lakes.

Extended periods of cease-to-flow have dominated the flow regime of the river system during the period 2016–20. In summer 2019–20, the river benefited from flows from both Queensland and NSW tributaries, replenishing pools along its length and delivering more than 200 gigalitres to the Menindee Lakes system.

While the river has been refreshed from tributary flows, as of May 2020, the headwater storages of the NSW regulated tributaries have not improved to a significant degree. Water managers will have few opportunities to actively manage environmental flows to benefit the Barwon–Darling system unless further rainfall occurs in the catchments.