Smart plans to use environmental water for a healthy Murray-Darling Basin

Media release
6 June 2013

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder David Papps today released plans to provide environmental water to the rivers and wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin over the next 12 months.

"The 10 planning documents which I am releasing today contain options for using Commonwealth environmental water in a range of rainfall conditions, to meet the needs of local environments and contribute to the health of the Basin as a whole," Mr Papps said.

"Sites such as the Murrumbidgee River, mid-Murrumbidgee wetlands, Macquarie Marshes and Gwydir wetlands in NSW, Goulburn River and Broken Creek in Victoria, the Lower Balonne and Macintyre rivers in Queensland and the River Murray Channel through to the Lower Lakes in South Australia are a focus for Commonwealth environmental watering in 2013-14. These include areas where we can continue to build on the benefits of environmental watering in recent years.

"Commonwealth environmental water will be used to help support environmental outcomes such as fish breeding, improved water quality or reconnection of wetlands and creeks to the rivers to enable native animals to move around the system and to have greater access to food and nesting sites."

This year some new river systems and wetland sites have also been identified as options to receive Commonwealth environmental water for the first time. These include:

  • the lower Lachlan, including Lake Ita, Lake Waljeers, and the Great Cumbung Swamp in NSW which are important breeding and feeding habitats for fish, birds and other native animals; and
  • the Mehi river in the Gwydir in NSW, where environmental flows could help provide native fish species greater access to habitat to breed, feed and shelter.

Each year, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office undertakes robust planning for the use of Commonwealth environmental water based on the best available science and advice of local communities and state-based agencies. The return to drier conditions in the Basin over the last nine months means that careful planning to maximise environmental outcomes from the use of water over the next year will be important.

"These plans set us up to make timely and well informed decisions throughout the year. They help me to act quickly in the event of opportune weather conditions or environmental responses - for example, if migratory birds arrive and begin breeding and need water to support this process, or if there is good rainfall which we can piggy-back on to get water to wetlands," Mr Papps said.

"The final decision on how much Commonwealth environmental water we use and the sites that receive water will depend on the seasonal, operational and management conditions which are monitored throughout the year. Water can also be carried over if it would provide greater benefit to the environment in the years ahead. Some environmental sites may require a drying phase to maintain healthy habitats for native plants and animals."

The planning process is a public one, undertaken collaboratively with state agencies, catchment management authorities, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and local communities through existing arrangements set up by the Basin states.

Commonwealth environmental water will be delivered in accordance with the Basin Plan's environmental watering plan.

A copy of Commonwealth Environmental Water Office's plans are available at http://www.environment.gov.au/ewater/publications/index.html#annual-use-plans.