Commonwealth Environmental Water Office banner

Environmental watering in the Lower Murray River (South Australia) 2012-13


July 2013: These actions have been completed.

Environmental Watering with the Nature Foundation South Australia

Clark's floodplain - Commonwealth environmental water delivery. Photo: Nature Foundation SA

In October 2012 the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder entered into a long-term agreement with Nature Foundation SA for the use of up to 10 gigalitres a year of Commonwealth environmental water over the next five years to support wetland and floodplain rehabilitation projects in the lower Murray River. Nature Foundation is the first non-government organisation to enter into an agreement to manage the use of Commonwealth environmental water locally for the benefit of the Basin.

For more information see: Commonwealth works with Nature Foundation South Australia to deliver water - Media release 24 October 2012.

On 18 February 2013 the Nature Foundation SA celebrated the start of watering on Clark's Floodplain - adjacent Lock 4 near Berri, the first Commonwealth environmental watering project under Nature Foundation's Water for Nature initiative.

Up to 100 ML of Commonwealth environmental water was agreed for use on Clark's Floodplain for the purpose of supporting the improved health and recruitment of black box vegetation communities.

For more information:

South Australia Clark's floodplain – Commonwealth environmental water delivery commencement – flood runner. Photo: Nature Foundation SA

Nature Foundation SA first Commonwealth environmental watering event at Clark's Floodplain – key partners: Bob Lott (Chair Nature Foundation), David Papps (Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder), Steve Clark (land owner) and Jason Size (Chairperson Bookpurnong Lock 4 Environmental Association). Photo: Leo Davis - provided courtesy of Nature Foundation SA

Environmental watering at Whirlpool Corner, Disher Creek, Berri Basin, Lower Murray River channel, Lower Lakes, Coorong and the Murray Estuary

Murray hardyhead. Photo: Gunther Schmida © MDBA

The environmental watering at Whirlpool Corner helped support the recruitment of native plants, including river red gums, and habitat for native frogs and waterbirds such as spoonbills. Environmental watering at Berri Basin and Disher Creek contributed to the recovery of Murray hardyhead, a threatened native fish.

The environmental water also contributed to improving the health of the Lower Murray River channel by increasing the transport of nutrients and salt from the river system and mitigating potential environmental impacts of acid drainage from the Lower Murray Swamps. It also contributed to achieving water level and salinity targets in Lakes Alexandrina and Albert (Lower Lakes), achieving salinity and seasonal water level targets in the Coorong, and supporting the establishment of wetland native plants, waterbird habitat, and the recruitment of native fish and frogs.

The Commonwealth made available:

  • a further 98,853 ML in the lower Murray River, Lower Lakes and Coorong during 2012-13
  • up to 1,400 ML of environmental water to the Disher Creek and Berri Basin, and
  • up to 500 ML of environmental water for pumping into Whirlpool Corner.

The environmental water used at Whirlpool Corner, Disher Creek and Berri Basin was provided from flows returning to the river system from watering actions originally delivered in Victoria.

This watering action was made possible by the collaboration of the Department of Environmental, Water and Natural Resources, South Australia, SA Water and the South Australia Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board.

Lower Murray River, South Australia. Photo: © DEWNR SA

Environmental watering in the Murray River Valley 2012-13

Up to 300 gigalitres of Commonwealth environmental water was made available to create more natural river flow patterns in the Murray River valley, and deliver significant volumes of water to the lower Murray River, during spring and summer 2012-13.

The use of environmental water in the Murray River valley built on the outcomes of previous years' environmental water delivery and high natural flow events, and sought to:

  • maintain and improve the health of riparian and wetland native vegetation
  • encourage breeding and support the survival of native fish such as Murray cod, silver perch, golden perch and freshwater catfish
  • connect habitats along the river and between the river channel and fringing wetlands
  • transport and disperse materials such as sediment, nutrients and organic matter
  • provide additional inflows to the Lower Lakes to improve water quality and enable barrage releases to the Coorong. Additional inflows to the Coorong will help manage salinity and seasonal water levels for native water plants such as Ruppia tuberosa.

This watering event was part of a series of coordinated environmental watering actions across the Southern Connected Basin. Water from other environmental water holders as well as other Commonwealth environmental watering actions, such as spring releases in the Murrumbidgee and Goulburn rivers, together supported environmental outcomes at multiple sites across the river system.

Commonwealth environmental watering in the Murray River valley was actively managed to take account of river conditions and rainfall, in cooperation with the SA Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Victorian Environmental Water Holder, Murray-Darling Basin Authority and Catchment Management Authorities.

The South Australian Research and Development Institute monitored the outcomes of this watering action in the lower Murray River valley.