Border Rivers

Key catchment Severn River

The Border Rivers comprise the catchments of the Dumaresq, Severn and Macintyre Rivers in far north NSW. The Dumaresq and Macintyre Rivers form the border between NSW and Queensland for about 470 kilometres.


Border rivers locality map

The Border Rivers catchment drains from the western side of the Great Dividing Range in the far north of NSW and southern Queensland. The catchment is bound by the Queensland border to the north and west, the Gwydir catchment to the south and the Great Dividing Range to the east.

Catchment area

The NSW portion of the Border Rivers catchment covers 24,500 square kilometres, just under half of the total catchment area of 49,500 square kilometres.

Major towns

In NSW the catchment's major urban centres are Glen Innes, Inverell, and Tenterfield, all located within the upper catchment. Goondiwindi, on the northern bank of the Macintyre River in Queensland is the major town in the middle of the catchment, along with the smaller town of Boggabilla in NSW. The town of Mungindi lies on the Barwon River at the lower end of the catchment.

Rivers and tributaries

The Border Rivers are part of the Murray-Darling Basin. The major river systems in NSW are the Dumaresq, Severn, Macintyre and Mole Rivers. The western half of the catchment comprises flat alluvial plains drained by intermittent watercourses – mainly Croppa, Whalan and Gil Gil Creeks. At the lower end of the catchment the Macintyre River is characterised by a complex series of anabranching channels. The Weir River in Queensland is the Macintyre River's largest tributary, flowing into the Macintyre River around 25 kilometres upstream of Mungindi and forming the start of the Barwon River.

Annual environmental releases from Pindari Dam

The department will undertake an annual release of water from Pindari dam (PDF, 107.13 KB) to improve riverine habitat and support fish breeding, particularly Murray cod.

Real-time flow data

The department monitors the conditions of river systems in NSW and provides regular updates on water levels, rainfall, water temperature and electrical conductivity.

View real-time data from the Border Rivers catchment on this website.

Major water storage & users

The major water storage in the NSW portion of the catchment is Pindari Dam, on the Severn River. It was completed in 1969 and upgraded in 1995 to provide a full storage capacity of 312,000 megalitres. The dam supplies water for irrigation, stock and domestic, town water supply, and industrial purposes along the Severn and Macintyre Rivers upstream of the Dumaresq River junction.

Two major storages occur in Queensland – Glenlyon Dam on Pike Creek stores 261,000 megalitres for irrigation along the Dumaresq River, and Coolmunda Dam on Macintyre Brook stores 69,000 megalitres for irrigation and town water supply.

The Border Rivers catchment supports a variety of water users including local councils and water utilities, dryland agriculture (including winter cereals, summer grains and oilseeds), irrigated cropping (cotton, fruit, vegetables, wine grapes and lucerne), livestock grazing and forestry.

Key water management issues

The water resources of the Border Rivers are shared between NSW and Queensland under the NSW-Qld Border Rivers Intergovernmental Agreement of 2008.

Sharing water resources fairly between the states and water users are a key water management issue addressed through the intergovernmental agreement and state water sharing plans, which set rules as to how water can be accessed, used and traded.

The management of floodwaters is particularly challenging. The rights of licensed users on both sides of the border must be balanced with the needs of the environment. Floodwaters fulfil an important ecological function as they spill out across the floodplain, replenishing the landscape and triggering flora and fauna life cycles, such as bird and fish breeding in wetlands.

The alteration of natural river flows through the construction of dams and weirs and erosion from land clearing affect riverine health and contribute to water quality problems, such as salinity.

Environmental values

Morella Lagoon, Pungbougal Lagoon and Boobera Lagoon are part of a remnant channel of the Macintyre River south of Goondiwindi. This wetland complex is listed as a site of national importance in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia. Boobera Lagoon has significant Aboriginal heritage value, and is considered to be the most important Aboriginal site in south-eastern Australia.

Water sharing plans

To preserve water resources in river and groundwater systems for the long term it is critical to balance the competing needs of the environment and water users. Water sharing plans establish rules for sharing water between the environmental needs of the river or aquifer and water users, and also between different types of water use such as town supply, rural domestic supply, stock watering, industry and irrigation.

Water sharing plans in this catchment:

  • NSW Border Rivers Regulated River
  • NSW Border Rivers Unregulated and Alluvial
  • NSW Great Artesian Basin Groundwater
  • NSW Great Artesian Basin Shallow Groundwater
  • NSW Murray-Darling Basin Fractured Rock Groundwater
  • NSW Murray-Darling Basin Porous Rock Groundwater

Visit Water Sharing Plans for a status update.

Under the Water Management Act 2000 all water sharing plans are required to have performance indicators to assess whether the plans have been effective in meeting their objectives. The Environmental flow response and socio-economic monitoring. Border Rivers progress report 2009 (PDF, 5126.94 KB) summarises activities undertaken in the previous water year and provides an interim assessment of outcomes from the investigations.

More information

General purpose water accounting reports

The department has released General Purpose Water Accounting Reports for the Border Rivers catchment providing annual consolidated and informative summaries of water resources availability and water management issues. These reports have been produced using the Australian Water Accounting Standard.

Catchment overview

The water resources and management overview for the Border Rivers catchment provides information on climate, land use, the environment, water resources, and river operations and management.