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Murray catchment

Environmental watering in the catchment in 2014-15

Watering action Status of Commonwealth action
Edward-Wakool River system Commenced
Tuppal Creek Action completed

Please see Environmental watering in the Murray catchment in previous years for more information on previous years watering. For further information about Commonwealth environmental watering in the Murray catchment and the outcomes achieved, please refer to the Commonwealth environmental water Outcomes Reports and Annual Reports.

Planning for 2014-15

Commonwealth environmental water use options 2014-15: Lower Murray-Darling Region and Commonwealth environmental water use options 2014-15: Mid Murray Region identifies potential Commonwealth environmental watering actions for 2014-15. Decisions on using Commonwealth environmental water will be made throughout the year based on seasonal, operational and management considerations. If you wish to provide suggestions for Commonwealth environmental water use please contact us at ewater@environment.gov.au or send us your suggestion by visiting: Your suggestions for potential water use options.

Monitoring of environmental watering in the catchment in from 2014-15 to 2018-19

Monitoring projects underway

Please see the Long Term Intervention Monitoring Project for more information on monitoring of environmental outcomes in this catchment from 2014-15 to 2018-19.

Additional information about the Long Term Intervention Monitoring Project for the Edward-Wakool river system Selected Area is also available from the Charles Sturt University website

Water availability and portfolio management

For more information regarding the characteristics of entitlements and the water resource plan held in the Murray catchment please refer to Victoria's Department of Environment and Primary Industries, South Australia's Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources and New South Wales Department of Primary Industries Office of Water

Water trading

Information on future trade considerations is available at: Portfolio Management Update

Information on current trading actions is available at: Current Trading Actions

Information on previous trading actions is available at: Trading Outcomes

Outcomes of Commonwealth environmental watering in the Edward-Wakool river system

In 2011-12 Charles Sturt University and partner agencies monitored the use of Commonwealth environmental water in the Edward-Wakool rivers system. Key outcomes identified through this work (and related monitoring in the Murray River) were that Commonwealth environmental water has:

  • contributed to native fish numbers in the Edward-Wakool river system
  • contributed to increased breeding of carp gudgeon, a small native fish, in the Edward-Wakool river system
  • contributed to increasing the food sources for native fish in the Edward-Wakool river system
  • provided a refuge for fish and aquatic animals from naturally occurring blackwater in the Edward-Wakool in April 2012, and also to downstream refuges in the Murray River.

The results from this monitoring are helping inform the future use of environmental water for the benefit of the river. It has improved our knowledge and understanding of:

  • how native fish are recovering in the river system and indicates a slow recovery process for fish such as Murray cod
  • how native fish move and use key habitat areas in the river system in response to environmental flows
  • the need to provide a range of aquatic habitats, such as slack water habitat, is important for animals such as shrimp and frogs

how the environmental outcomes achieved through the use of environmental water may be limited by the need for environmental water use to be delivered as in-stream flows only so impacts on third parties are avoided.

Outcomes of Commonwealth environmental watering in the Lower Murray River

From 2012-13 to 2013-14 Charles Sturt University and partner agencies monitored the use of Commonwealth environmental water in the Edward-Wakool river system. Commonwealth environmental water delivered to the river system over these years had a focus on providing good quality in stream habitat to enable the recovery of native fish since the black water events caused by natural floods in 2010-11.

Key outcomes identified through this work were that Commonwealth environmental water has contributed to:

  • greater hydraulic complexity in the main river channel
  • the reproduction of golden perch
  • the export of salt and particulate organic nutrients from the river, Lower Lakes and Coorong to the Southern Ocean, particularly during February 2012, when environmental water accounted for 70% of the total salt exports and 50% of the particulate organic nutrient exports from the Murray Mouth
  • a flow regime in spring and summer that was suitable for spawning of both large bodied and small to medium bodied species, thus supporting diversity.

Monitoring reports and fact sheets

Catchment profile

Where is it?

The Murray catchment centres on the Murray River, which is one of the iconic rivers that defines Australia's largest surface water system, the Murray-Darling Basin. The Murray catchment extends across southern New South Wales, northern Victoria and south-eastern South Australia. The total area of the catchment is 133,677 km2.

The headwaters of the Murray River originate in the Australian Alps. The river flows in a general north-westerly direction and defines the border between NSW and Victoria. At the border with South Australia, the river flows west across a wide floodplain before turning southwards and eventually emptying into the Southern Ocean at the Murray Mouth. The Murray River receives inflows from the Barwon-Darling, Lower Darling, Murrumbidgee, Ovens, Goulburn-Broken, Campaspe Loddon and Wimmera-Avoca catchments.

Southern Catchments page

Legend


Ramsar site


DIWA site

Murray Catchment

What makes this place so special?

The Murray catchment is home to a large and diverse range of flora and fauna, including species recognised by international agreements (e.g. migratory bird species) and a number of threatened species and ecological communities. Many of these species are listed and protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), which is the Australian Government's principal piece of environmental legislation. Other species are listed under environmental legislation in their respective states and territories.

The catchment includes many significant wetlands, including Wetlands of International Importance listed under the Ramsar Convention (Ramsar) and nationally important wetlands listed under the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia (DIWA). Some of these wetlands include:

The Murray catchment is home to some of the largest stands of river red gum in Australia.

The effects of drought, climate change, and high levels of extraction have reduced river flows resulting in a significant decline in the ecological health of many of these stands and their understorey vegetation. Depletion in soil moisture and an increase in underlying saline groundwater is also jeopardising river red gums, and therefore also threatening habitat for the diverse range of fauna that depend on this vegetation.

Six areas in the Murray catchment have been identified as 'Icon Sites' under The Living Murray (TLM) program.

What does the latest science say about the ecological health of the catchment?

The Sustainable Rivers Audit (SRA), coordinated by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, provides scientifically robust assessments of the ecological health of the Basin's river valleys. The SRA reports the overall health of the Murray River in three zones (Lower, Central, and Upper). The overall ecosystem health of the Murray River as reported by the SRA is summarised below.

SRA Report Overall ecosystem health of catchment
Upper Murray Central Murray Lower Murray
SRA 1 (based on data collected from 2004 to 2007) Very poor Poor Poor
SRA 2 (based on data collected from 2008 to 2010) Poor Poor Poor

The CSIRO Sustainable Yields Report on the Murray found that the current level of surface water extraction is high, with 36 percent of average available water being diverted away from the waterways.

Under the best estimate 2030 climate conditions, average surface water availability for the Murray region would fall by 14 per cent, average diversions in the Murray region would fall by 4 percent and end-of-system flows would fall by 24 per cent. The Murray catchment as defined in this report also included the Lower Darling below Menindee.

Environmental water delivery references

Environmental Water Delivery: Yarrawonga to Tocumwal and Barmah-Millewa, Environmental Water Delivery: Edward Wakool system, Environmental Water Delivery: Koondrook-Perricoota Forest, Environmental Water Delivery: Gunbower Forest and Environmental Water Delivery: River Murray – Coorong, Lower Lakes and main channel below Lock 1 collate current knowledge of the operational and administrative arrangements for the delivery of environmental water to different parts of the Murray River system.

The documents provide an overview of the environmental assets and potential environmental water use options. This work has been undertaken to support the efficient and effective use of environmental water and to engage communities on how this may best be achieved. This aims to encourage community discussion and feedback on the use of environmental water, to identify future opportunities and recognise operational risks and constraints.

Comments on the document are encouraged and can be provided to: ewater@environment.gov.au