Commonwealth Environmental Water Office
Lower Murray River valley annual water use options 2012-13
This factsheet provides an overview of Lower Murray River valley water use options for 2012-13. More detail about these options is on Annual Water Use Options 2012-13: Lower Murray River Valley.
The lower Murray River valley is the area that includes the lower Murray River system from Wentworth in NSW to the Murray mouth in South Australia, and the lower Darling River system from Menindee Lakes in NSW to the junction with the Murray River at Wentworth (including the Great Darling Anabranch).
Water availability for the lower Murray River valley in 2012-13
The lower Murray River valley, together with the mid-Murray region, Northern Victorian Rivers and Murrumbidgee River catchment, form the southern connected basin. These systems are not managed in isolation from each other due to their high degree of connectivity. Complementary water use options are developed in these catchments to achieve multiple benefits across the southern connected basin.
Up to 1,030 gigalitres of Commonwealth environmental water will be available for use across the southern connected basin during 2012-13. Information about the overall management of the Commonwealth environmental water holdings including options for carryover and trade, can be found in the Portfolio management statement at Portfolio Management Statement 2012-13: Lower Murray River Valley
Why is environmental water required in the lower Murray River valley?
The lower Murray River valley requires environmental water to protect and restore its rivers, wetlands, and floodplains. Environmental water provides more natural flow patterns to the Murray-Darling Basin river system, this in turn contributes to the wellbeing of regional communities who depend on sustainable water management to support healthy rivers, strong communities and productive economies.
The valley includes wetlands of international importance (The Riverland, Banrock Station Wetland Complex and The Coorong and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert Wetland). These provide habitat for migratory birds, including the Curlew sandpiper and the Banded stilt. Native fish, including Murray cod and Murray hardyhead, and other animals such as insects, frogs and reptiles also depend on a healthy lower Murray River valley for their survival. River red gums, lignum, river cooba, black box and sandalwood are also important plants in this valley.
Commonwealth environmental watering in 2012- 13 aims to build on the benefits of watering from previous years. Details about Commonwealth environmental watering events and outcomes from previous years can be found in our Annual reports and Outcomes reports at publication section.
What do we want to achieve in 2012-13?
During 2012-13 Commonwealth environmental water use will target multiple environmental benefits across the lower Murray River valley. These options aim to support the ongoing environmental recovery that started after the breaking of the drought in 2010.
For some parts of the lower Murray River valley this will mean providing river flows to contribute to supporting the health of native plants in wetlands, the riverbank areas and on floodplains. This aims to provide good quality habitat in which native animals can successfully breed. For other parts of the valley this means making decisions not to provide water to sites that require a drying phase.
These priorities are potentially competing when planning large scale water use options that may include multiple sites. The aim is to obtain the best environmental benefits associated with both wetting and drying phases at as many sites as possible.
Some proposed options for environmental water use in the lower Murray River valley
Options for environmental water use in the lower Murray River valley include increased river flows:
- along the lower Darling River system and lower Murray River system to enhance flow variability and provide for a more natural flow. This option is targeted towards supporting the breeding of native fish and the survival of fingerlings. This option also enables low level wetland inundation to support the health of native plants in wetlands.
- along the lower Murray River system to enable low level floodplain inundation. This option will support waterbird habitat by maintaining and improving the health of native plants found in riverbank areas, wetlands and floodplains
- to the Lower Lakes to enable continuous barrage outflows throughout the year. This supports the transportation and export of salt and nutrients from the Murray-Darling Basin out through an open River Murray mouth. It also helps to manage salinity levels within the Lower Lakes. Barrage outflows provide additional inflows to the Coorong to support the required salinity and seasonal water levels for native plants particularly over summer.
Options also include pumping to high priority wetland sites to support salinity management for the benefit of native fish.
How were the environmental water use options developed?
A range of annual water use options has been developed for each catchment where the Commonwealth holds environmental water. All options have been developed based on advice from stakeholders including the Commonwealth's Environmental Water Scientific Advisory Panel, the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, South Australian Murray Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Victorian Environmental Water Holder and the Murray Darling Basin Authority. The views of local bodies, such as the NSW Murray-Lower Darling Environmental Water Advisory Group have also been considered.
Each option contributes to meeting the overall environmental objectives of the Proposed Basin Plan – A revised draft, released on 28 May 2012. The options do not represent a commitment for water use. Decisions on Commonwealth environmental water use will be made throughout the year after an assessment of the seasonal, operational and management conditions at the time.
How can you be involved?
Local groups, state governments and others are working with us to manage Commonwealth environmental water by giving advice on where it can be best used and helping to deliver the water and monitor outcomes. The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office welcomes information from the community on how environmental water can best be managed including further suggestions on the water use options.
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For further information on the management and use of Commonwealth environmental water please visit publication section