Working together to achieve positive outcomes

Pink eared ducks in the Macquarie Marsh. Image courtesy of Nicola Brookhouse, DPIE.

Outcomes from managing and releasing water for the environment

NSW and Commonwealth partner agencies are working together to deliver water for the environment when and where it’s required to achieve the best possible outcomes.

We have been able to achieve many positive ecological outcomes for our rivers, floodplains, plants and animals even during drought. This includes maintaining drought refuges to avoid loss of vital populations of native plants and animals.

The Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) has seen a marked improvement in overall environmental health since the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in 2012. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s website provides information on how releases of water for the environment have combined with variable natural rainfall and river flows to improve the health of the Basin waterways over the last decade.

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) celebrated 10 years of delivering water for the environment in the MDB in 2018. Download a flyer which showcases some of these achievements and view how the CEWO has used their water in each catchment and what that water for the environment has achieved.

Northern connectivity

There has been an increasing emphasis on connectivity between the northern rivers and the Barwon-Darling in Basin annual environmental watering priorities published by the MDBA. This reflects that it has been particularly dry and demonstrates an increasing awareness that native fish need to move opportunistically at a regional and, for some species, at a basin-scale to complete their life cycles by finding new habitat, dispersing, spawning and recruiting. There is also an increasing awareness of the connectivity between the native fish communities in the north and the south of the Basin.

Stocktake of northern Basin connectivity water management rules – This report is an audit of northern Basin water sharing plan rules that contribute to connectivity between the northern tributary rivers and the Barwon-Darling River.

Stocktake of northern Basin connectivity rules – analysis of implementation and effectiveness – This report builds on the work in the Stocktake of northern Basin connectivity water management rules. It was commissioned to provide a better understanding of how well the provisions in the Water Management Act 2000 and water sharing plans support hydrological connectivity in the northern Murray-Darling Basin, and how we can improve.

Connectivity outcomes

The CEWO has driven environmental outcomes in NSW even during severe drought. In 2018 after northern NSW rivers stopped flowing, environmental water was managed and released through the Northern Connectivity Event to provide opportunities for native fish and waterbirds to feed and breed, plants to grow and set seed, and floodplains to release essential nutrients into the food chain.

Additional northern Basin unregulated flow events were protected in early 2018 through the use of a temporary water restriction under s. 324 of the Water Management Act 2000. Protection of this flow event benefited town water supplies, communities and the environment. Read about the outcomes of the March-April 2018 s. 324 Event PDF, 1189.25 KB.

Without any further significant rainfall in 2018, assistance was required to help plants and animals survive the drought in the northern MDB. State and Commonwealth governments collaborated to provide water for the environment through the Northern Fish Flow Event in 2019 releasing 36.0 GL of water from held environmental water reserves.

The Northern Fish Flow supported the health of the Dumaresq, Macintyre, Mehi and Barwon river systems, improving water quality, longitudinal river connectivity and survival rates of native fish along 1,500 km of the river system, some 500 kms further than originally anticipated. Read about the outcomes of the Northern Fish Flow event.

In the southern Murray-Darling Basin planning and collaboration across State and Commonwealth agencies made a 2019 Southern Spring Flow possible. CEWO published regular updates of the Southern Spring Flow 2019.

The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) plays a key role in the success of these environmental watering events. In NSW NRAR officers monitor compliance with any pumping restrictions in place during an event, ensuring that water for the environment is protected.