Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Murray-Darling to benefit from environmental watering

Media release
17 September 2012

The Murray-Darling Basin rivers and wetlands and its thousands of animals and plants will benefit from as much as 1,449 gigalitres of Commonwealth environmental water in the coming year.

Minister for Water Tony Burke has released the Government's watering plans for the basin that outline the strategic approach taken to ensure the water provides benefits to the areas that need it most.

Environmental watering is designed to support the Basin's rivers and wetlands, some of international importance, which provide breeding sites and habitat for water birds and migratory birds.

"Smart use of environmental water is the cornerstone of basin reform," Mr Burke said.

"We can't stop floods and we can't stop droughts but environmental watering makes sure that the system is healthy and resilient in the lead up to drought.

"If you are looking for how to achieve healthy rivers this is where it begins.

"Later this year we will have a Murray Darling Basin Plan that sets down the full level of ambition for basin reform, but the work towards it has already begun."

Mr Burke said decisions on environmental watering will be made throughout the year depending on seasonal, operational and management conditions at the time.

"For some parts of the Basin river flows will be increased to mimic more natural flows to support the wetlands, riverbanks and floodplains,'' he said.

"In some cases, the decision will be made not to provide water to sites if they require a natural drying phase."

Water will also be pumped to high priority wetland sites to support salinity management to benefit native fish.

Increase flows are planned for the Lower Lakes in South Australia to enable continuous barrage outflows throughout the year to support the transportation and export of salt and nutrients through the Murray Mouth.

These barrage outflows will also provide additional inflows to the Ramsar listed Coorong to support the required salinity and seasonal water levels for native plants particularly over summer.

Sites to be targeted also include: the Gwydir Wetlands, Macquarie Marshes and North Redbank wetlands in NSW; Gunbower Forest in Victoria; and Banrock Station Wetland in South Australia.

Flows will also be considered in the north to the south of the Basin for many of its rivers such as the Macintyre, Namoi, Macquarie, Lachlan, and Murrumbidgee.

Mr Burke said the public release of water use options meets the Government's commitments in response to the Windsor Inquiry.

"It also delivers on the Government's commitment to increase opportunities for local communities to bring forward options for environmental water use and we encourage them to provide feedback or advice," he said.

"Every drop of Commonwealth environmental water is delivered in partnership with local community groups including catchment management authorities and landholders."

Case studies on watering efforts for each Basin State is attached and 2012-13 water use options for catchments can be viewed at www.environment.gov.au/ewater/publications/index.html