The Murray and Lower Darling catchments cover 98,300 square kilometres and include the world’s largest stand of river red gum and Australia’s longest river, the Murray. Ramsar-listed sites include the Millewa, Werai and Koondrook–Perricoota forests, part of Chowilla Floodplain and the River Murray Channel. The catchment wetlands and rivers support important Aboriginal cultural heritage values.
The focus of water managers in 2019–20, with an expected very dry to dry resource availability scenario, as identified in the Murray and Lower Darling Catchments Annual Environmental Watering Priorities 2019–20, was aimed at continuing to build on gains of previous years through the careful management of water for the environment. Drought conditions continued for the Lower Darling for the majority of the year, with the valley in Stage 4 drought restrictions.
Following inflows from the northern basin, flows over Weir 32 recommenced in March 2020 providing flow connection between the Menindee Lakes and Murray for the first time in more than 12 months.
Supporting the system
In the Murray valley, managed watering events benefitted native fish, habitat condition and system productivity, including:
- delivering flows into Tuppal Creek, between Tocumwal and Deniliquin – the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) is working with Murray Irrigation and Tuppal Creek landholders to develop a works program that allows higher flows to move unimpeded along the creek and improve passage for large-bodied native fish species such as Murray cod
- collaboration between DPIE, Murray Irrigation and local landholders to upgrade the Thule Creek Escape and increase the maximum flow rate – monitoring showed 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
- water delivered into several private property wetlands in the central Murray and lower Murray to support recovery efforts for the endangered southern bell frog, one of the NSW Government’s Saving our Species projects
- helping Department of Primary Industries – Fisheries and non-government organisations with emergency flows to protect a translocated population of Murray hardyhead in western NSW, the only known population of this endangered fish in NSW
- environmental water delivery to about 500 hectares of black box and lignum floodplain at Bottle Bend Reserve, near Gol Gol in south-west NSW.