Key catchment Gwydir

The Gwydir catchment supports a diverse range of vegetation. Extensive areas of forest occur in the high altitude areas of the eastern catchment, with a gradual westward change to more open forest, shrublands and grassy plains.


Gwydir river locality map

The Gwydir catchment is located in north-western NSW. It is separated from the Border Rivers catchment to the north by the Mastermans Range, and from the Namoi catchment to the south by the Nandewar Range.

Catchment area

Covering an area of 26,600 square kilometres, the Gwydir catchment extends 670 kilometres from the Great Dividing Range to the Barwon River near Collarenebri.

Major towns

Moree is the largest town in the Gwydir catchment, and the main commercial centre for the surrounding agricultural areas. It is also a major transport and tourism hub, being located at the junction of the Gwydir and Newell highways. Less populous towns are Uralla and Guyra, in the New England tablelands, and Bingara and Warialda in the middle of the catchment.

Rivers and tributaries

The Gwydir River rises in the New England Tablelands near Uralla and flows north-west through steep valleys until it reaches the flat plains near Gravesend. Upstream of Moree the valley widens and the Gwydir River breaks into a complex pattern of creeks, anabranches and wetlands. The Gwydir River's main tributaries are Copes, Moredun, Georges and Laura Creeks, and the Horton River.

The wetlands at the end of the catchment soak up much of the Gwydir River's flow. During flood events water spills out across the floodplain and enters the Barwon River at numerous points.

Real-time data flow

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 Gwydir catchment on this website.

Major water storage

Located on the Gwydir River 35 kilometres south west of Inverell, Copeton Dam is the major irrigation storage within the Gwydir catchment, drawing its water from a catchment area of over 5,300 square metres. With a total capacity of 1,364,000 megalitres, Copeton Dam provides for town water supplies, irrigation, stock and domestic use, industry, and environmental flows along the Gwydir River and its effluent channels. A series of weirs and regulators assist in diverting water to the various watercourses of the Lower Gwydir catchment.

Major water users

Land use in the Gwydir catchment is dominated by extensive agriculture with 70 per cent of the catchment being used for grazing. Major water users in the catchment area include local councils and water utilities, dryland agriculture, livestock grazing and irrigated agriculture, predominantly cotton.

Key water management issues

Sharing water fairly between competing water users and the environment is a key water management issue. Water sharing plans seek to address this issue by setting long-term rules on how water can be accessed, used and traded.

Floodwaters play a vital role in sustaining and replenishing the Lower Gwydir wetlands, and they are highly valued by local agricultural users. The NSW Office of Water is developing a floodplain harvesting policy to better manage floodwater diversions.

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

Downstream of Moree is an alluvial fan where extensive floodplain wetlands known as the Lower Gwydir wetlands have developed. Covering around 1,000 square kilometres, these wetlands are listed as a site of international significance under the Ramsar Convention. They provide freshwater habitat for many threatened species and support a large number of colonial waterbirds which use the wetlands for breeding.

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:

  • Gwydir Regulated River
  • Gwydir Unregulated and Alluvial
  • Lower Gwydir Groundwater
  • 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. Gwydir Valley progress report 2009 (PDF, 6998.56 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 report

The department has released General Purpose Water Accounting Reports for the Gwydir 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 Gwydir catchment provides information on climate, land use, the environment, water resources, and river operations and management.