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Environmental water released into Murray-Darling Basin to facilitate river flow

In a bid to connect river systems across the northern Murray-Darling Basin following a dry start to 2018, the Commonwealth and NSW Government have sanctioned environmental water releases into northern waterways.

The water release is planned to cover a distance in excess of 2000 km, as releases from a number of northern rivers converge in the Barwon-Darling River.

The move comes after river reaches in the the Barwon-Darling River downstream of Brewarrina stopped flowing in January this year.

Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder Jody Swirepik said the releases aim to improve the rivers’ health and to aid communities suffering from a long dry spell.

“This is one of the first opportunities we’ve had to manage such a large scale connection – from the top end of the Northern Basin through the Barwon-Darling and down to Wilcannia, with the possibility of reaching the Menindee Lakes,” she said.

“Water for the environment is needed to maintain connection of northern rivers and the Barwon-Darling. Although our purpose is to improve river health, we do hope it will also relieve some of the pressure the community has been feeling.”

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Wetlands Conservation Officer Tim Hosking said the releases will capitalise on more recent flows making their way down the Barwon-Darling system.

“We now have a chance to improve conditions for the inland river systems across northern NSW, and particularly to help our native fish like the iconic Murray cod and silver perch,” he said.

“Managed water for the environment will add to the runoff that recently entered the Barwon and Darling Rivers, and will aim to connect rivers, improve water quality and provide habitat and food sources for native fish populations.

“It will also help to build up their resilience for longer-term survival when the system becomes dry again.”

It is hoped that monitoring the release process will help create useful data when assessing ecological responses to managed flows following severe drought.

It is also anticipated that environmental flows will reach Bourke by early May, and Wilcannia by late May.