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History - Murrumbidgee

Environmental watering in the catchment in previous years

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2013-14

Environmental watering in the catchment in 2013-14
Watering action Amount of water delivered (ML)
Lower Murrumbidgee floodplains 127 233
Lower Murrumbidgee floodplains (supplementary flows) 9 367
Mid Murrumbidgee wetlands and Murrumbidgee River channel Did not proceed
Total in 2013-14 136 600

Environmental watering in the lower Murrumbidgee floodplains 2013-14

Status

30 June 2014: This action has been completed.

About the watering

Photo

Nearing sunset on Paika Lake, western lakes area of the Murrumbidgee catchment. Photo: Stephanie Seacomb, CEWO

A total of 250,598 ML of environmental water, including 136,631 ML Commonwealth environmental water was delivered to the lower Murrumbidgee River catchment during 2013-14. Environmental water was used to inundate lakes, wetlands and connect waterways in the Nimmie-Caira system, Yanga National Park, North Redbank system, Fiddlers-Uara Creek system and the Western Lakes. The use of environmental water in these areas supported their ongoing recovery by contributing to maintaining and improving the health of native vegetation, including river red gums, black box, lignum and aquatic plants; the provision of habitat for waterbirds, native fish, turtles and frogs; and providing reproduction opportunities for native animals, including the threatened southern bell frog.

Monitoring the outcomes from this watering action was undertaken by Charles Sturt University, NSW OEH, NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries), and the Riverina Local Land Services (previously Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority).

The watering action was made possible by the collaboration of a wide range of stakeholders including the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, State Water Corporation, Murrumbidgee Environmental Water Allowance Reference Group and landholders.

See also NSW Office of Environment and Heritage media release of October 21, 2013 which refers to one of the sites receiving environmental water as part of this action.

Environmental watering in the mid Murrumbidgee wetlands and Murrumbidgee River channel 2013-14

Status

23 October 2013: Not proceeding. This action did not proceed as the natural flow triggers required to achieve the intended outcomes did not occur.

About the watering

Up to 150,000 ML of Commonwealth environmental water was available for use in the mid Murrumbidgee wetlands and river channel during 2013-14. This use of this water was dependant on the occurrence of a suitably sized natural flow event as a trigger for the use of Commonwealth environmental water.

The purpose of the proposed watering action was to protect and maintain the ecological health and resilience of the Mid-Murrumbidgee Wetlands. Commonwealth environmental water was intended to contribute to river flows by augmenting a natural higher flow event to support reproduction and improved condition of native plants, waterbirds, fish and other native animals, and to support hydrological connectivity and dispersal of nutrients, plants and animals.

As a result of the absence of a suitable natural trigger for this action, alternative uses of Commonwealth environmental water in the Murrumbidgee catchment have been pursued including the 2013-14 environmental watering in the lower Murrumbidgee floodplains. The potential alternative uses are outlined in Commonwealth environmental water use options 2013-14: Murrumbidgee River Valley.

2012-13

Environmental watering in the catchment in 2012-13
Watering action Amount of water delivered (ML)
Murrumbidgee River fish recruitment flow 150 000
Hobblers Lake, Cherax Swamp and associated wetlands (western edge of Lower Murrumbidgee Floodplain) 6 000
Environmental watering in Paika Lake, Murrumbidgee catchment Not required
Total in 2012-13 156 000

Environmental watering for fish in the Murrumbidgee River 2012-13

Status

30 June 2013: This action has been completed.

About the watering

Commonwealth environmental water was made available to support the breeding and growth of native fish communities in the mid and lower Murrumbidgee River below Darlington Point, New South Wales.

Photo of Murray cod

Murray cod. Photo: Gunther Schmida © Murray Darling Basin Authority

The commencement date of the watering action was dependant on rainfall, local weather conditions, and advice from the NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries) relating to the best breeding conditions in the area for Murray cod.

The environmental water contributed to:

  • maintaining inundation of native fish breeding habitat long enough to ensure breeding success
  • increasing flows to help native fish disperse throughout the river at the end of the breeding season
  • providing a gradual decrease in flows to limit the risk of stranding native fish that may have continued to occupy breeding habitat.

Peak flows during the event were planned so that they would not exceed 12 gigalitres (GL) per day (as measured at Darlington Point). This helped ensure that the environmental water was contained well within the river banks. Flows from this environmental watering action provided additional benefits throughout the river as it travels from the storages downstream through the Murrumbidgee.

Water delivery was managed in cooperation with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, NSW State Water and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries). These agencies have also worked with Charles Sturt University, the University of NSW, and the Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority to monitor the outcomes achieved by this environmental watering action.

Video

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage produced the YouTube video Helping the Murray cod in the Murrumbidgee which refers to this watering event.

Environmental watering of Hobblers Lake, Cherax Swamp and associated wetlands in 2012-13

Status

30 June 2013: This action has been completed. For more information on 2013-14 environmental watering actions in this area please visit Environmental watering in the lower Murrumbidgee floodplains.

About the watering

Commonwealth environmental water was made available for use in lake and wetland areas of the western lower Murrumbidgee floodplain near Balranald, New South Wales.

Photo of Purple swamp hens in spike rush narwie west

Purple swamp hens in spike rush narwie west. Photo: James Maguire © NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

Commonwealth environmental water was used in conjunction with NSW government environmental water. The environmental water helped fill lakes, wetlands and connect waterways in the area. It built on the outcomes achieved for previous environmental watering undertaken by the NSW government and contributed to:

  • maintaining the health and regeneration of native plant communities in Cherax Swamp, Yarrawol Creek and Narwie West, Reed Bed and Black Box wetlands.
  • the establishment and growth of native plant communities in Hobblers Lake and Penarie Creek which have been isolated from the floodplain and have not received environmental water before.
  • providing good quality habitat for native animals including waterbirds, fish and frogs.

This watering action was managed in cooperation with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, NSW State Water and local landholders. It was delivered using new infrastructure funded by the NSW government and the Australian Government Biodiversity Fund. This includes the use of carp screens which helped prevent the movement of adult carp, a pest species, into key areas.

Monitoring the outcomes from this environmental watering action was done by the CSIRO, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and Charles Sturt University. The monitoring focused on the effect of environmental watering on native birds, fish, frogs, plants and water quality.

Video

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage produced the YouTube video Cherax Swamp and Hobblers Lake bounce back which refers to this watering event.

Environmental watering in Paika Lake, Murrumbidgee catchment 2012-13

Status

30 June 2013: The use of Commonwealth environmental water for this action was not required.This action was completed with NSW government environmental water.

Paika Lake, Murrumbidgee catchment. Photo: Andrew Lowes © CEWO

About the watering

Commonwealth environmental water was made available for use in Paika Lake on the western edge of the lower Murrumbidgee floodplain to contribute to:

  • maintaining the health and enabling regeneration of floodplain wetland native plant communities
  • supporting the habitat requirements of wetland fauna including fish, invertebrates, frogs, turtles and waterbirds.

Paika Lake, Murrumbidgee catchment. Photo: Skye Wassens, Charles Sturt University

2011-12

Environmental watering in the catchment in 2011-12
Watering action Amount of water delivered (ML)
Lower Murrumbidgee River 17 800
North Redbank (Lower Murrumbidgee Floodplain) 65 200
Total in 2011-12 83 000

Lower Murrumbidgee River blackwater dilution flow, 15-21 May 2012

A total of 28.5 GL of environmental water, including 26.7 GL of Commonwealth environmental water, was delivered to the lower Murrumbidgee River in May 2012 to improve water quality and provide in-stream conditions suitable to support aquatic animals following a blackwater event in the lower Murrumbidgee River.

The blackwater event in the lower Murrumbidgee River occurred in response to large natural floods in the Murrumbidgee Catchment during March/April 2012 and had the potential to severely impact fish and other aquatic animals due to very low dissolved oxygen levels - known as “hypoxic blackwater”. For more information please refer to the Water Quality Bulletin (PDF - 240 KB) and River operations weekly report produced by the Murray Darling Basin Authority.

This watering action was managed by New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage in cooperation with New South Wales State Water and New South Wales Office of Water.

The Commonwealth environmental water delivered in this action complemented and extended recent efforts by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and other Commonwealth environmental watering actions in the wider Murray River catchment. This watering action is part of an integrated approach to reduce environmental damage and help to maintain some areas where native fish have reasonable conditions to survive. Water is also being delivered in the:

For example, in April 2012, blackwater from the lower Murrumbidgee River began to enter the Murray River resulting in very low dissolved oxygen levels in the mid-Murray River. Delivery of Commonwealth environmental water to the mid-Murray river in early May 2012 was effective at diluting the blackwater entering from the Murrumbidgee River, provided improved dissolved oxygen levels and suitable habitat for fish and other aquatic species. For more information on the blackwater dilution flow delivered to the Murray River please refer to:

Lower Murrumbidgee River in-stream fresh and top-up of North Redbank Wetlands, 11-29 February 2012

In February 2012, up to 65.2 GL of Commonwealth environmental water was made available for use in the lower Murrumbidgee River and floodplain. The watering action aimed to recreate a more natural pulse flow in the lower Murrumbidgee River and had two components which operated simultaneously:

  • Provide a late summer/autumn pulse flow in the Murrumbidgee River to extend the duration of an unregulated event.
  • Top up North Redbank wetlands while also releasing water from the lower end of the wetlands into the Murrumbidgee River. For more information on this component of the action, please refer to: Environmental watering in North Redbank.

The watering action was suspended on 29 February 2012 and deliveries from dams were halted on 28 February 2012 due to forecast heavy rainfall in the Murrumbidgee catchment. Prior to the suspension of the action, a total of 33.7 GL of Commonwealth environmental was delivered to the lower Murrumbidgee River as an in-stream flow pulse, and 4.7 GL was delivered to the North Redbank wetlands. The remaining unused portion of 26.7 GL was delivered to the lower Murrumbidgee River in May 2012 to mitigate blackwater conditions following the March/April floods (see details above).

The objectives for the watering action in February 2012 were to:

  • Increase the connection of watercourses between the North Redbank wetlands and the Murrumbidgee River to contribute to the transfer of sediment, nutrients and aquatic plants and animals that provide the food and conditions needed to create healthy riparian habitat.
  • Restore hydrologic diversity along the Murrumbidgee River to better replicate a more natural medium summer/autumn flow which would:
    • Inundate native fish habitat, including coarse woody debris and riparian vegetation, and enhance recruitment for small bodied native fish.
    • Improve the transport of sediment, nutrients and carbon and biota.
  • Improve water quality through the use of in-channel flows to dilute low dissolved oxygen return flows from North Redbank, while simultaneously providing fresh flows to Redbank Wetlands, improving wetland water quality.

This watering action was managed in cooperation with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and NSW State Water.

Environmental watering in North Redbank 2011-2012

A total of 24.9 GL of environmental water, including 22.5 GL of Commonwealth environmental water, was delivered to the North Redbank wetlands on the lower Murrumbidgee floodplain between November 2011 and February 2012 to support wetland species and habitat. Commonwealth environmental water was delivered in two stages:

25 November 2011 – 2 February 2012

A total of 20.2 GL of environmental water, including 17.8 GL of Commonwealth environmental water, was delivered to the North Redbank wetlands to maintain water levels and water quality at the wetlands with the following specific ecological objectives:

  • To provide breeding habitat for numerous waterbird species including great egret, glossy ibis, blue billed duck, Australasian bittern and the fishing bat (Myotis macropus), which is vulnerable in NSW.
  • To create breeding habitat for southern bell frogs (Litoria raniformis), which is nationally vulnerable and endangered in NSW.
  • Inundate river red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) forest and associated wetland systems including lignum (Muehlenbeckia florulenta), black box (E.largiflorens) and native reed (Phragmites australis) communities.

This watering action was managed in cooperation with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, State Water and local landholders.

3 – 14 February 2012

A further 4.7 GL of Commonwealth environmental water was delivered to the North Redbank wetlands over a period of 11 days in February 2012 to prolong the period of wetland inundation from the earlier action. The additional period of wetland inundation provided breeding habitat for waterbirds and the southern bell frog, supported vegetation recovery and improving water quality. While environmental water was being delivered to the wetlands from the North Redbank channel, water was simultaneously released from the wetlands (at Baupie Escape near Balranald) into the Murrumbidgee River to increase system connectivity to allow the transfer of carbon, sediment, nutrient and biota between wetlands and the Murrumbidgee River.

A concurrent in-stream fresh was delivered to the lower Murrumbidgee River channel during 11-29 February 2012 to mitigated against possible negative ecological impacts of low dissolved oxygen return flows from the North Redbank wetlands on the Murrumbidgee River channel (see Environmental watering in the lower Murrumbidgee River).

2010-11

Environmental watering in the catchment in 2010-11
Watering action Amount of water delivered (ML)
Lowbidgee - Yanga National Park 7 533
Lowbidgee - Yanga Nature Reserve/Park 13 287
Lowbidgee - North Redbank 2 525
Barren Box Swamp 3 000
Murrumbidgee River replenishment 57 751
Mid Murrumbidgee Wetlands and the Yanco-Colombo-Billabong Creek system 109 250
Total in 2010-11 193 346

2009-10

Environmental watering in the catchment in 2009-10
Watering action Amount of water delivered (ML)
Yanga National Park (Lower Murrumbidgee Floodplain) 47 140
North Redbank (Lower Murrumbidgee Floodplain) 1 600
Total in 2009-10 48 740