Key catchment Warrego River

The Warrego River is a major northern tributary of the Darling River. It begins in the Carnarvon Ranges on the Great Dividing Range in Queensland and flows south for around 800 kilometres, where it joins the Darling River upstream of Louth.


Key catchment map Warrego

The Warrego catchment is in north-western NSW, on the northern side of the Darling River near Bourke. It is bordered by the Culgoa catchment in the east, and the Paroo catchment in the west.

Catchment area

The Warrego River drains a total area of 62,900 square kilometres. Around 18 per cent of the catchment (11,275 square kilometres) lies within NSW. The landscape of the lower Warrego catchment is generally flat with elevations decreasing from 140 metres at the Queensland border, to around 80 metres at the end of the catchment near Louth.

Major towns

Augathella, Charleville and Cunnamulla are the major towns in the Queensland portion of the catchment. There are no towns in the NSW portion of the catchment. However, a number of small villages are located along the river at Barringun, Enngonia, and Fords Bridge. Bourke (on the Darling River) is the nearest major service centre for those living in the NSW catchment.

Rivers and tributaries

The Warrego River rises in the Carnarvon Ranges in central Queensland. Its major tributaries include the Nive, Langlo and Ward Rivers. South of Cunnamulla the river becomes a complex distributary system with flows leaving the river via Cuttaburra Creek and various anabranches such as Irrara Creek. The river crosses the NSW-Queensland border at Barringun and generally terminates in large swamps and storages on the property of Toorale near Louth. The NSW Government's purchase of this property in 2009 has increased the volume of water from the Warrego entering the Darling River during floods.

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 Warrego catchment on this website.

Major water users

Grazing accounts for 96 per cent of all land use within the Warrego catchment. Water is used for irrigation, stock watering and domestic supplies.

Key water management issues

Sharing the catchment's water resources fairly between NSW and Queensland within the extraction limits set by the Murray-Darling Basin Cap is a key water management issue. Water sharing plans are being developed to set long-term rules on how water can be accessed, used and traded in both states.

Water from the Warrego flows into the Darling River only during large floods. The capture and storage of floodwaters by Queensland water users during these floods is one of the concerns addressed in the various water sharing agreements and in the Basin Plan being developed by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

Water users along the basin's unregulated creeks and streams do not always have access to a reliable water supply due to the highly variable nature of flows in the basin and unreliable rainfall patterns.

Environmental values

There are over 300,000 hectares of wetlands in the Warrego catchment including saline lakes, lignum swamps, flood channels, freshwater lakes, claypans and semi-permanent water holes. Twelve wetlands are considered of national significance by their inclusion in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia. The wetlands of the Warrego and adjacent Paroo River are considered the most important area for waterbirds in the Murray-Darling Basin.

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 Great Artesian Basin Groundwater
  • NSW Great Artesian Basin Shallow Groundwater
  • Intersecting Streams Unregulated and Alluvial

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. Far West NSW - progress report 2011 (PDF, 4672.05 KB) summarises activities undertaken in the previous water year and provides an interim assessment of outcomes from the investigations.