Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Large scale environmental water release for Murrumbidgee wetlands

Media release
10 June 2011

More than 150 gigalitres of water recovered for the environment will be delivered to hundreds of wetlands along the Murrumbidgee River, benefiting the Murray system as far downstream as South Australia's Lower Lakes and Coorong.

In the largest use of Commonwealth environment water to date, the environmental flows will include more than 100 gigalitres of Commonwealth water, with additional contributions from the NSW Government and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority's Living Murray program.

Water Minister Tony Burke said the river flows would fill hundreds of small wetlands located along the Murrumbidgee River from Gundagai through to the Murray River.

"Restoring the health of the River Murray is one of the biggest environmental challenges of our generation," Mr Burke said.

"This water will improve the river's health and replenish river red gums and wetlands.

"This one event, equivalent to releasing the water in 75,000 Olympic size swimming pools, is the largest use of Commonwealth environment water that has occurred to date.

"Because we have had a wet year in 2010-11 this is a real opportunity to build on good flows and carry over water in dams for future use. In effect this means that there is improved insurance for the environment when drier times return."

NSW Minister for the Environment, Robyn Parker said these environmental water flows will provide a big boost to the health of the wetlands of NSW and vital replenishment for river red gums and other wetland vegetation.

"The wetlands provide vital habitat for rare, endangered and vulnerable species including waterbirds, frogs and other wildlife, including the endangered Southern Bell Frog," Ms Parker said.

"The delivery of this water has been carefully planned in close consultation with local and regional stakeholders through the Murrumbidgee environmental water advisory group."

Environmental water will build on the benefits from recent river flows in spring 2010, which filled many wetlands for the first time in 10 years. Watering these wetlands now means they will stay full through winter and spring providing vegetation with their best chance to flourish.

The flow into the Murrumbidgee River will be delivered through releases from Burrinjuck and Blowering Dams over approximately 10 days commencing on 14 June with assistance from the NSW State Water Corporation and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

The watering action is supported by local landholders with several private water holders contributing water to the Commonwealth and to NSW as part of the release. The action uses water set aside for the environment and will not affect water allocations for local irrigators or stock and domestic users.