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Gwydir catchment

Environmental watering in the catchment in 2013-14

Watering action Status of Commonwealth action
Gwydir Wetlands Yet to commence
Mallowa Wetlands Completed
Mehi River Completed
Carole Creek Completed

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

Planning for 2014-15

Commonwealth environmental water use options 2014-15: Gwydir River Valley identifies potential Commonwealth environmental watering actions for 2014-15. 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 or send us your suggestion by visiting: Your suggestions for potential water use options.

Water availability and portfolio management

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

Water trading

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office successfully conducted its first trade of regulated water allocations in the Gwydir catchment of New South Wales in January 2014.

Information on previous trading actions is available at: Trading Outcomes

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

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

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
Mallowa Wetlands 5 000 Completed
Gwydir Wetlands 22 709 Completed
Total in 2012-13 27 709  
Environmental watering in the catchment in 2011-12
Watering action Amount of water delivered (ML) Status of action
Lower Gwydir and Gingham watercourses 1 206 Completed
Total in 2011-12 1 206  
Environmental watering in the catchment in 2010-11
Watering action Amount of water delivered (ML) Status of action
Gwydir wetlands 3 056 Completed
Gwydir wetlands 10 000 Completed
Total in 2010-11 13 056  

Catchment profile

Where is it?

The Gwydir catchment is in north-eastern New South Wales and is based around the Gwydir River. The catchment is bordered to the north by the Border Rivers, to the south by the Namoi River, to the east by the Great Dividing Range, and to the west by the Barwon River (a tributary of the Darling).

Black winged stilts in the Gwydir wetlands

Black winged stilts in the Gwydir wetlands Photo: Bruce Campbell, CEWO

The Gwydir catchment covers 28,998 km2, which represents 2.78 per cent of the total area of the MDB. The river flows in a westerly direction from its headwaters in the Great Dividing Range near Armidale. The region's topography spans from tablelands in the east, through the central slopes to the western plains where the Ramsar-listed Gwydir Wetlands are located. The main tributary of the Gwydir is the Horton River. Downstream of the catchment's largest town, Moree, the Gwydir River breaks into two major streams: the Gingham Watercourse (northern arm) and the Lower Gwydir or Big Leather Watercourse (southern arm). The Gwydir River is regulated by the Copeton Dam which stores water for towns, stock, domestic use and irrigation. There are also many farm dams and ring tanks in the region.

Semi-permanent wetlands in the Gwydir include natural channels and swamps. Widespread inundation of the catchment's wetlands occurs primarily from floods originating in the upper catchment.

Northern catchments page


red irregular shaped area  denotes ramsar site
Ramsar site

yellow irregular shaped area denotes diwa site
DIWA site

Gwydir Catchment

What makes this place so special?

The Gwydir River catchment is an ecologically significant area because it includes:

  • systems or subcatchments considered to have high conservation value, such as the Georges Creek Subcatchment
  • wetlands of national significance, including the New England Wetlands
  • a diverse range and large areas of flora, include approximately 60,000 ha of wetland vegetation (particularly coolabah woodlands) and one of the largest expanses of water couch in NSW
  • an appreciable assemblage of rare, endangered and vulnerable species including the Australian bittern, the silver perch and the painted snipe.

The Gwydir Wetlands, which feature on the floodplain of the lower Gwydir River, cover an area of 102,120 hectares. These are among the most extensive and significant semi-permanent wetlands in north-west New South Wales. Portions of these DIWA-listed wetlands are also listed under the Ramsar Convention: the Lower Gwydir Watercourse and the Gingham Watercourse. The Gwydir Wetlands Ramsar site has four components, covering 823 ha in total. These wetlands provide a typical example of an inland terminal wetland delta system. The Gingham Watercourse is also host to the largest stand of marsh club-rush in NSW (listed as a critically endangered ecological community), which covers some 1300 ha. Other significant assets in the catchment include the Gwydir River channel and the distributaries including Mallowa Wetlands on Mallowa Creek.

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 Gwydir Valley 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) Poor
SRA 2 (based on data collected from 2008 to 2010) Poor

The CSIRO Sustainable Yields Report on the Gwydir Valley Catchment report was developed for the Gwydir area and it found that the current level of surface water extraction is very high, with 41 per cent of average available water being diverted away from the waterways. This report indicated that the average period between flood events that inundate at least 20 per cent of the Gwydir Wetlands has increased by more than 75 per cent. Ecosystems in the Gwydir Wetlands are adapted to floods, and many species require inundation to trigger breeding events.

Under the best estimate 2030 climate the report found the average surface water availability would be reduced by 10 per cent and flows at the downstream end of the waterway would be reduced by 6 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.