key catchment Tweed, Rous River

The Tweed is the northern most coastal catchment in NSW. From its origins on the volcanic slopes of Mount Warning the Tweed River flows north-east to the ocean at Tweed Heads.


Tweed locality map

The Tweed catchment is in far north-east NSW. The catchment is bound by the McPherson Range on the NSW-Queensland border, the Burringbar and Condong Ranges to the south-east, and the Tweed Range to the west.

Catchment area

The Tweed catchment covers 1,326km2. The towering conical peak of Mount Warning is the highest point with an elevation of 1,156 metres, although much of the catchment has an elevation of less than 300 metres.

Major towns

Murwillumbah is located in the middle of the catchment, while the major urban area of Tweed Heads surrounds the Tweed estuary. Around half of the catchment population lives in Tweed Heads.

Rivers and tributaries

The Tweed River begins near Mount Burrell in the south-west of the catchment and flows for approximately 80 kilometres to the ocean at Tweed Heads. Its major tributaries are the Oxley River and Rous River which both flow from the McPherson Ranges along the NSW-Qld border. The Oxley River enters the Tweed River approximately seven kilometres upstream of Murwillumbah. The Rous River enters the Tweed about 10 kilometres downstream of Murwillumbah. The ocean tides influence the Tweed River's ecology and flow patterns as far as Bray Park Weir upstream of Murwillumbah.

At the end of the Tweed River are the two small coastal catchments that feed into Cobaki Broadwater and Terranora Broadwater. These shallow estuarine lakes form part of the lower Tweed estuary. Cobaki Broadwater is fed by Piggabeen and Cobaki Creeks, while Terranora Broadwater receives water from Bilambil and Duraby Creeks.

Real-time flow data

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

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

Major water users

The largest use of water from the Tweed River is for town water supply for the growing urban area of Tweed Heads. Other water users extract water for irrigation, stock and domestic use. Horticultural crops include tropical fruits, avocados, macadamias, stone fruit, tomatoes, and other vegetables. Irrigation of the river flats is carried out for dairying, while large areas adjacent to the estuary are used for sugarcane farming.

Key water management issues

The rivers of the Tweed catchment have been affected in the past by land clearing, agricultural use, human settlement and recreation. Many streams on the coastal floodplain have been channelised and flow regimes changed by the installation of flood gates.

The rivers and creeks in the catchment are unregulated. Sharing the catchment's water resources fairly between competing water users such as town water, agriculture and industry can be a challenge, particularly during drought, when water is less and demand high. Water sharing rules have been developed to set long-term rules on how water can be accessed, used and traded within the catchment.

Environmental values

Most of the national parks and reserves in the Tweed valley are part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. They contain ancient rainforest communities, plants and animals with evolutionary links to Gondwana, and form part of the largest node of sub-tropical rainforest in Australia.

Two islands in the Tweed estuary are included in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia. Stotts Island contains the only substantial remnant of lowland floodplain subtropical rainforest in NSW. Ukerebagh Island Nature Reserve is one of the largest estuarine wetlands in the Tweed and protects endangered communities of littoral rainforest, mangroves, saltmarsh and seagrasses.

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 plan in this catchment:

  • Tweed River Area Unregulated and Alluvial

Visit water sharing plans for a status update.