Murray Riverina

Key catchment Murray River

The Murray River forms a major arm of the Murray-Darling Basin, which drains most of inland NSW, northern Victoria and south-western Queensland. It is regulated by Hume Dam 16 kilometres upstream of Albury.

This information applies to the regulated section of the Murray River, from Hume Dam to the Murrumbidgee River junction. For information on the catchment upstream of Hume Dam visit Upper Murray catchment.

Location

Key catchment map Murray Riverina

The Murray River is in southern NSW and forms the NSW-Victorian border for 1,880 kilometres. It is bordered by the Murrumbidgee catchment to the north and the Benanee and Lower Darling catchments in the west. The Murray River begins in the Southern Alps of NSW and Victoria, and flows in a westerly direction for over 2,500 kilometres to its outlet near Goolwa on the South Australian coast.

Catchment area

The Murray Riverina catchment covers 14,950 square kilometres of southern NSW. It begins at Hume Dam in the gentle hills of the south-western slopes where elevations range from 300-600 metres. Downstream of Corowa, the river moves onto the flat plains of the Riverina where elevations are less than 200 metres.

Major towns

The Murray Riverina catchment supports seven local government areas. Around half of the population lives within the city of Albury, the catchment's largest urban centre. Other large towns in the catchment are Corowa and Deniliquin in NSW, and Swan Hill across the river in Victoria.

Rivers and tributaries

Downstream of Hume Dam, the Murray River begins to develop a much wider floodplain featuring many billabongs and lagoons. The Kiewa River and Ovens River, two major tributaries from Victoria, enter the Murray River between Albury and Yarrawonga.

Downstream of Yarrawonga, a complex series of effluent channels break away from the river, distributing water across the northern floodplain. These effluents were established about 30,000 years ago when a north-south ridge known as the Cadell Fault formed across the channel of the Murray River, diverting its waters northwards. Eventually the river cut a new path through the fault line, linking up with the Goulburn River to form its current course.

Major tributaries and anabranches in this region are the Edward River, Wakool River, Niemur River, Billabong Creek, Yallakool Creek and Colligen Creek. All these streams are regulated. Major tributaries from Victoria entering the river downstream of Yarrawonga are the Goulburn, Campaspe and Loddon Rivers.

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 Murray Riverina catchment on this website.

Major water storage

Hume Dam (3,038,000 megalitres) is the main operational storage for the Murray River. It has been supplying regulated water to the Murray River system since its inception in 1936.

Dartmouth Dam (3,906,000 megalitres) on the Mitta Mitta River in Victoria is the largest storage in the catchment. It is operated in conjunction with Hume Dam to supply water users along the Murray River.

Eildon Dam (3,390,000 megalitres) in the headwaters of the Goulburn River in Victoria, supplies the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District in Victoria.

Major water users

Hume and Dartmouth Dams provide a regulated supply of water along the Murray River and its NSW effluents to support a diverse range of water users including local councils and water utilities, forestry, tourism and agriculture. The main industries supported by this water source are wheat, rice, dairy, beef, wool, lamb, grapes and citrus.

Key water management issues

The Murray River is one of the most highly regulated rivers in NSW. Water resources are shared between NSW, Victoria and South Australia as part of the interstate River Murray Waters Agreement, administered by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA). Sharing water resources fairly between the states, particularly during drought, is a key water management issue.

Over the decade from 2000 to 2010, river flows reached record lows, and extraordinary water sharing arrangements were implemented to secure water supplies for towns and critical water-dependent industries. Securing enough water for critical human needs while trying to protect and maintain riverine health is a key challenge.

The alteration of natural river flows combined with the effects of land clearing have affected the health of wetlands and riverine environments in the catchment and contributed to water quality problems, such as salinity.

The MDBA is developing the Basin Plan to set new rules to govern water sharing in the Murray-Darling Basin in the context of ongoing drought and climate change.

Environmental values

The river red gum forests of the Murray and Edward-Wakool Rivers are listed as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. In 2010 the NSW government declared these forests as a new national park that will conserve the largest area of river red gums in the world.

Over 262,000 hectares of wetlands are located within the Murray Riverina catchment. Many of these wetlands have been affected by changes to their hydrology as a result of river regulation. Some of these sites are now being actively restored through removal of regulating structures and targeted delivery of environmental flows through the Living Murray program

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:

  • Lower Murray Groundwater
  • Murray Unregulated and Alluvial
  • NSW Murray and Lower Darling Regulated Rivers
  • 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. Murray Valley and Lower Darling River - progress report 2011 (PDF, 7004.7 KB) summarises activities undertaken in the previous water year and provides an interim assessment of outcomes from the investigations.

More information

Water resources and management overview provides detailed information on climate, land use, the environment, water resources, and river operations and management in the Murray Riverina catchment.

General purpose water accounting reports

General Purpose Water Accounting Reports

The NSW Office of Water has released General Purpose Water Accounting Reports for the NSW Murray 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.