The Macquarie River Valley
Halls Block in the Macquarie Marshes. Photo: CEWO
The Macquarie River Valley contains diverse and natural environments that support domestic water use, agriculture, tourism and recreation, mining and the cultural values and practice of local Aboriginal Traditional Owners.
Environmental water is delivered to key locations to support the many unique native animals, plants, birds and fish of the region. The Macquarie Marshes are one of the largest and most important wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin. Approximately 200,000 hectares of the Marshes have been listed as nationally important, with approximately 19,000 hectares also listed as internationally significant under the Convention of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar). The Marshes are made up of freshwater channels and streams, with semi-permanent and ephemeral swamps and floodplains. The Marshes are an important breeding site for colonial waterbirds.
The Valley also contains a wide range of vegetation types including river red gum woodland, water couch grasslands, coolabah and blackbox woodlands, lignum swamps, reed swamps, cumbungi and river cooba. This diverse vegetation provides valuable habitat for 211 bird species, eight native mammals, 15 frog, 56 reptile and 24 native fish species. 17 water bird species are also listed on international migratory bird agreements with Japan, China and/or Republic of Korea.
Delivery of environmental water to date (as of November 2021)
White faced heron in the Macquarie Marshes. Photo: CEWO
A combination of Commonwealth and New South Wales environmental water has been delivered to the Macquarie River and Macquarie Marshes since 2009-10, which has helped to support the inundation of core wetland areas and supported vegetation, fish and waterbirds. The outcomes of water for the environment delivered to the Macquarie catchment between 2009 and 2020 have been summarised: Macquarie River Valley water use history.
The Macquarie catchment experienced its worst drought on record between 2017–18 and 2019–20. During this time rainfall was well below average, with highest on record temperatures, and inflows to Burrendong Dam were extremely low.
Late summer and autumn rainfall and flows in 2019–20 provided much needed water to parts of the Macquarie Marshes. Commonwealth and NSW supplementary water entitlements were used to ensure some additional water was left instream to help support recovery in the Macquarie River and Marshes.
Commonwealth and NSW water for the environment was also delivered to the mid-Macquarie River and Marshes during spring and summer 2020–21 to support further recovery. This was designed to support the breeding and recruitment of Murray cod, to inundate core areas of the Macquarie Marshes to help wetland vegetation recover, and to maintain breeding and feeding habitat for waterbirds, frogs and other animals.
What has environmental water achieved in the Macquarie?
Monitoring and evaluation activities are helping to identify what is working and what is not, with the result considered as part of the planning and decision-making process undertaken by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and our state and local delivery partners.
A summary of results for 2020-21 are below with full monitoring reports available for specific monitoring projects.
Typha at Buckiinguy Swamp. Photo: CEWO
- Supplementary water for the environment was delivered in August 2020 and March 2021. This water was directed to the Northern and Southern Macquarie Marshes to help support wetland recovery from prolonged severe drought conditions.
- Along with rainfall and tributary flows, supplementary water for the environment contributed to improving wetland vegetation growth and condition. This water also supported large numbers of waterbirds, including magpie geese and ibis, and provided habitat and food for other animals such as native fish and frogs.
- Commonwealth and NSW water for the environment was delivered to the mid-Macquarie River during spring 2020 to support the breeding and recruitment of Murray cod and other native fish. Monitoring undertaken during the event found larvae of Murray cod and freshwater catfish. Juveniles of these native fish species were also found in January.
- Water was then delivered to increase inundation in the Macquarie Marshes to support wetland vegetation recovery and to provide more breeding and feeding habitat. These flows were the extended over summer. Vegetation responded well, with reeds growing 2–3 metres high, and strong growth of water couch and mixed marsh vegetation. Water for the environment supported the breeding and recruitment of frogs, and a high diversity of waterbirds, including EPBC listed species Australiasian bittern and Australian painted snipe.
Commonwealth environmental water is planned, delivered and managed in partnership with a number of people and organisations in the Macquarie River Valley, including:
- NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment - Environment, Energy and Science
- Macquarie-Cudgegong Environmental Water Advisory Group
- New South Wales Department of Primary Industries – Fisheries
- NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment - Water
- Macquarie-Cudgegong Customer Advisory Group
- Murray-Darling Basin Authority
The following video was produced by the NSW Government Office of Environment & Heritage