Commonwealth Environmental Water Office
- Annual Water Use Options 2012-13: Northern Murray-Darling Basin Unregulated Rivers - Fact sheet (PDF - 356 KB)
Northern basin unregulated rivers annual water use options 2012-13
This factsheet provides an overview of Northern Murray- Darling Basin unregulated rivers water use options for 2012-13. More detail about these options is at: Annual Water Use Options 2012-13: Northern Murray-Darling Basin Unregulated Rivers.
The northern unregulated catchments of the Basin include the Warrego, Moonie, Condamine-Balonne/ Nebine Creek, Queensland Severn River (in the upper Border Rivers catchment) and 1,640 km of the Barwon-Darling River as far as Menindee Lakes. These catchments are predominately unregulated as there is no large public storage capacity in the unregulated system.
Water availability for the northern Basin unregulated rivers in 2012-13
As at 1 August 2012, the Commonwealth is responsible for managing the use of nearly 105 gigalitres of unregulated entitlements in the northern Basin which have a total long-term average annual yield of approximately 76 gigalitres.
Commonwealth environmental water available for use throughout 2012-13 will depend on actual flows experienced throughout the year. Information about the management of the Commonwealth environmental water holdings including options for carryover and trade, will be provided as part of the November update of the Portfolio Management Statements.
What do we want to achieve in 2012-13?
Commonwealth environmental water will contribute to achieving environmental objectives by supporting more natural river flows. These benefits are dependent upon the magnitude and timing of flows that naturally occur through the year.
Why is environmental water required in the northern unregulated river valleys?
The northern Basin unregulated rivers area requires environmental water to protect and restore its rivers, wetlands and floodplains. Environmental water contributes to the broader approach to water management in the Murray-Darling Basin which aims to provide healthy rivers, strong local communities and sustainable food and fibre production.
The environment has adapted to a ‘boom and bust’ cycle created by high river flows followed by extended periods of no or very low flows. The area includes wetlands of national and international importance (Warrago River Waterholes and Narran Lakes). It also provides breeding sites for waterbirds such as ibis, egrets, and freckled ducks. Native fish, including Murray cod, bony bream and other native animals such as insects and frogs also depend on healthy rivers within this area for their survival. Black box, river red gum and lignum are important native plant communities in this area.
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 will, if required, contribute to continuing the recovery of river channel and wetland areas following the drought. It will aim to provide good quality habitat in which native plants and animals can successfully breed and grow, and help them cope with future changes in environmental conditions.
Some options for environmental water use in the northern Basin unregulated rivers
The use of Commonwealth environmental water in this area during 2012-13 will be limited to in-stream use due to the inability to control flows in the northern Basin unregulated streams. A degree of active management of flows is possible in the Warrego River at Toorale National Park.
Examples of proposed watering options in this area during 2012-13 include:
- Queensland unregulated streams - water from entitlements in the Lower Balonne, Warrego, Moonie, Nebine Creek and upper Border Rivers systems remains in-stream to contribute to increased flow variability.
- Warrego River at Toorale National Park-State
Conservation Area - to:
- enhance in-stream flows in the lower Warrego and Darling River to support in-channel environmental assets and connect different parts of the river,
- contribute to floodplain inundation adjacent to the Warrego River to enhance the watering of wetland areas, and
- providing habitat and breeding opportunities for native plants and animals that occupy the area in times of high natural flows.
- Barwon-Darling system - Commonwealth entitlements in this system can be carried over for future use to enhance the volume available in the following year. At a local scale, river flows are likely to be enhanced compared to historical conditions as a result of the Commonwealth entitlements in the system no longer being extracted from the river.
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 are based on advice from stakeholders including the Commonwealth’s Environmental Water Scientific Advisory Panel, state government agencies and local bodies.
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. Water use planning and operations will also be updated once the Basin Plan is made.
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, helping to deliver the water and to 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