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Murrumbidgee catchment

Environmental watering in the catchment in 2013-14

Watering action Status of Commonwealth action
Lower Murrumbidgee floodplains In progress
Lower Murrumbidgee floodplains (supplementary flows) In progress
Mid Murrumbidgee wetlands and Murrumbidgee River channel Not proceeding

A summary of Commonwealth environmental watering from previous years in the Murrumbidgee is included below. For further information about Commonwealth environmental watering in the Murrumbidgee and the outcomes achieved, please refer to the Commonwealth environmental water Outcomes Reports and Annual Reports.

Planning for 2013-14

Commonwealth environmental water use options 2013-14: Murrumbidgee River Valley identifies potential Commonwealth environmental watering actions for 2013-14. Decisions on using Commonwealth environmental water will be made throughout the year based on seasonal, operational and management considerations. If you wish to provide suggestions for Commonwealth environmental water use please contact us at ewater@environment.gov.au or send us your suggestion by visiting: Your suggestions for potential water use options.

Monitoring of environmental watering in the catchment in 2012-13

Monitoring projects underway

  • Monitoring and reporting on the ecological outcomes of Commonwealth environmental water delivered to the Murrumbidgee River between September 2012 and June 2013.

Water availability and portfolio management

Murrumbidgee catchment water holdings at 30 June 2014
Security Registered entitlements (ML) Long Term Average Annual Yield (ML) Carryover from 2012-13 (ML) New allocations in 2013-14 (ML) Available water transferred for delivery or delivered directly in 2013-14 (ML) Estimated current Commonwealth water account balance (ML)
High 5,275 5,011 45,536 151,607 130,600 56,221
General 208,178 133,234
Conveyance 14,983 14,234
Supplementary 20,820 2,915
Supplementary (Lowbidgee) 381,000 172,974
Unregulated 164 110
Groundwater 29 29
Total 630,448 328,506 45,536 151,607 136,600 56,221

Subject to water accounting adjustments. Slight discrepancies may exist due to rounding. Allocations of water against entitlements held in regulated systems are made periodically and will depend on factors including seasonal inflows and rules associated with water accounts. Water can be transferred across catchments in the southern connected basin, subject to trading rules. Southern connected basin includes the following hydrologically connected catchments: Goulburn, Campaspe, Loddon, Murray (SA, Victoria, and NSW), Lower Darling, and Murrumbidgee. Allocations are transferred to the Commonwealth following registration of the entitlements on the relevant State register. For the purposes of the above table, against supplementary entitlements, no 'carryover' or 'water account balance' is reported, and 'new allocations' and 'available water transferred for delivery or delivered directly' are accounted at the time of take.

Southern-connected Basin water holdings* at 30 June 2014
Security Registered entitlements (ML) Long Term Average Annual Yield (ML) Carryover from 2012-13 (ML) New allocations in 2013-14 (ML) Available water transferred for delivery or delivered directly in 2013-14 (ML) Estimated current Commonwealth water account balance (ML)
High 637,020 599,109 168,703 1,006,801 877,936 300,387
General/Low 567,719 409,994
Conveyance 16,843 15,692
Supplementary 21,031 3,070
Total 1,242,613 1,027,864 168,703 1,006,801 877,936 300,387

*Water allocations in southern-connected Basin catchments can, with some restrictions, be traded to other catchments in the southern-connected Basin. This gives the Commonwealth the capacity to move water between catchments of the southern-connected Basin to get the best outcomes for the environment.

For more information regarding the characteristics of entitlements and the water resource plan held in the Murrumbidgee catchment please refer to New South Wales Department of Primary Industries Office of Water.

Water trading

Information on future trade considerations is available at: Portfolio Management Update

Information on current trading actions is available at: Current Trading Actions

Information on previous trading actions is available at: Trading Outcomes

Environmental watering in the catchment in previous years

Environmental watering in the catchment in 2012-13
Watering action Amount of water delivered (ML) Status of action
Murrumbidgee River fish recruitment flow 150 000 Completed
Hobblers Lake, Cherax Swamp and associated wetlands (western edge of Lower Murrumbidgee Floodplain) 6 000 Completed
Environmental watering in Paika Lake, Murrumbidgee catchment 0 Not required
Total in 2012-13 156 000  
Environmental watering in the catchment in 2011-12
Watering action Amount of water delivered (ML) Status of action
Lower Murrumbidgee River 17 800 Completed
North Redbank (Lower Murrumbidgee Floodplain) 65 200 Completed
Total in 2011-12 83 000  
Environmental watering in the catchment in 2010-11
Watering action Amount of water delivered (ML) Status of action
Lowbidgee - Yanga National Park 7 533 Completed
Lowbidgee - Yanga Nature Reserve/Park 13 287 Completed
Lowbidgee - North Redbank 2 525 Completed
Barren Box Swamp 3 000 Completed
Murrumbidgee River replenishment 57 751 Completed
Mid Murrumbidgee Wetlands and the Yanco-Colombo-Billabong Creek system 109 250 Completed
Total in 2010-11 193 346  
Environmental watering in the catchment in 2009-10
Watering action Amount of water delivered (ML) Status of action
Yanga National Park (Lower Murrumbidgee Floodplain) 47 140 Completed
North Redbank (Lower Murrumbidgee Floodplain) 1 600 Completed
Total in 2009-10 48 740  

Outcomes of Commonwealth environmental watering in the Murrumbidgee catchment

In 2011-12 the University of New South Wales and partner agencies monitored the use of Commonwealth environmental water delivered to the Lowbidgee. Key outcomes identified through this work were that Commonwealth environmental water has contributed to:

  • native fish numbers in the rivers and wetlands of the Murrumbidgee catchment
  • increased productivity and biodiversity of fish and microcrustaceans in the lower Murrumbidgee floodplain-river system
  • connecting wetlands and creeks to rivers, which enable native fish and animals to move around the system and have greater access to food and nesting sites
  • ecosystem functions, such as nutrient and carbon cycling, that support food chains in the Basin.

The results from this monitoring are helping inform the future use of environmental water for the benefit of the river.

In 2012-13 the University of New South Wales and partner agencies continued to monitor the use of Commonwealth environmental water delivered to the Lowbidgee. The monitoring program is focussing on the physicochemical and biotic outcomes of 2012-13 Commonwealth environmental watering actions, with a focus on the:

  • breeding and recruitment of native fish
  • maintenance of habitat for native fish
  • maintenance of existing riparian, floodplain and native wetland vegetation communities
  • reproduction and recruitment opportunities for riparian, floodplain and wetland flora and fauna
  • mobilisation, transport and dispersal of biotic and abiotic material
  • creation and maintenance of bed, bank and riparian habitat.

The preliminary report (executive summary) can be found in the section below. The final report will be released later in 2013.

Monitoring reports and fact sheets

Catchment profile

Where is it?

The Murrumbidgee River and its major tributary, the Tumut River, originate in the Snowy Mountains. The Murrumbidgee catchment region has one of the most diverse climates in NSW, ranging from the alpine areas of Kosciusko National Park and the Monaro Plains, through to the grazing and grain belts of the southwest slopes and plains and the shrublands and grasslands of the semi-arid western Riverina.

The Murrumbidgee catchment covers 87,795 km2. Tributaries along the Murrumbidgee River include the Queanbeyan, Yass and Cotter Rivers in the upper reaches, and Tarcutta and Mirrool Creeks downstream of the Tumut junction. Westward from this junction, the river enters a broad floodplain and eventually joins the Murray River downstream of Balranald.

In the past, very large floods in the Lachlan River caused flows to enter the lower Murrumbidgee via the Great Cumbung Swamp.

Legend


Ramsar site


DIWA site

Murrumbidgee Catchment

What makes this place so special?

The Murrumbidgee catchment is an ecologically significant area because it includes:

  • a diverse range of flora and fauna species, including river red gum forests and woodlands, black box and lignum
  • species listed as threatened under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), such as the vulnerable southern bell frog
  • wetlands of international significance listed under the Ramsar Convention
  • colonial bird breeding sites

Two large-scale environmental assets in the Murrumbidgee include the Lower Murrumbidgee River Floodplain and the Mid-Murrumbidgee-River Wetlands.

The Lower Murrumbidgee River Floodplain, which is listed under the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia, is a wetland of national significance. It covers approximately 200,000 hectares and includes some of the largest lignum wetlands in NSW. It is one of the most important breeding sites in eastern Australia for the straw-necked ibis. The wetland provides critical breeding habitat for waterbirds, including the Australian white ibis, glossy ibis, royal spoonbill, and great egret.

The Mid-Murrumbidgee-River Wetlands consist of several nationally significant wetlands. They support vegetation communities including river red gum forests and woodlands and black box woodlands that provide vital habitat to threatened species including the Australasian bittern.

What does the latest science say about the ecological health of the catchment?

The Sustainable Rivers Audit (SRA), coordinated by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, provides scientifically robust assessments of the ecological health of the Basin's river valleys. The overall ecosystem health of the Murrumbidgee catchment as reported by the SRA is summarised below.

SRA Report Overall ecosystem health of catchment
SRA 1 (based on data collected from 2004 to 2007) Very poor
SRA 2 (based on data collected from 2008 to 2010) Poor

The CSIRO Sustainable Yields Report on the Murrumbidgee indicated that the current level of surface water extraction in the Murrumbidgee River is extremely high, with 53 per cent of average available water being diverted for use. The report also found that due to development, the average period between inundation events that flood the Lowbidgee Floodplain has more than tripled and the maximum period between events has more than doubled. Under the best estimate 2030 climate conditions, average surface water availability would reduce by 9 per cent and diversions by 2 per cent. End-of-system flows would be reduced by 17 per cent.

Note that the boundaries of this catchment as defined by the Sustainable Rivers Audit and the Sustainable Yields report differ slightly to the boundaries used here.

Environmental water delivery references

Environmental water delivery: Murrumbidgee Valley collates current knowledge of the operational and administrative arrangements for the delivery of environmental water to the Murrumbidgee Valley. The document provides an overview of the environmental assets and potential environmental water use options. This work has been undertaken to support the efficient and effective use of environmental water and to engage communities on how this may best be achieved. This aims to encourage community discussion and feedback on the use of environmental water, to identify future opportunities and recognise operational risks and constraints. Comments on the document are encouraged and can be provided to: ewater@environment.gov.au