The Macquarie Valley
Halls Block in the Macquarie Marshes. Photo: CEWO
The Macquarie 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 September 2022)
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/Wambuul 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 Valley between 2009 and 2020 have been summarised: Macquarie River Valley water use history.
The Macquarie Valley experienced its worst drought on record between 2017 and 2020, with below average rainfall and highest on record temperatures.
Conditions began to improve in early 2020, and Commonwealth and NSW water for the environment contributed to much needed flows to the Macquarie River/Wambuul and Macquarie Marshes. This water helped support the breeding and recruitment of Murray cod, and inundated core areas of the Macquarie Marshes, improving wetland vegetation condition and supporting feeding and breeding habitat for waterbirds, frogs and other animals.
Good rainfall and tributary flows continued in 2021–22, increasing flows in the mid and lower Macquarie River/Wambuul and Macquarie Marshes, and increasing water in storage and allocations.
With widespread rainfall and significant river flows, only a small volume of Commonwealth and NSW water for the environment was delivered during 2021–22. Between winter and spring, this water supported wetland vegetation and waterbird habitat in the Macquarie Marshes, and increased connection along the Macquarie River/Wambuul down to the Barwon River.
Colonial waterbird breeding occurred in response to the wet conditions in the Macquarie Marshes. Small volumes of Commonwealth and NSW supplementary water for the environment were delivered in late summer and autumn to support colonial waterbird breeding to completion, and to provide foraging habitat for juvenile birds.
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 2021-22 are below with full monitoring reports available for specific monitoring projects.
Typha at Buckiinguy Swamp. Photo: CEWO
- Supplementary water for the environment was delivered to the Macquarie Marshes between July and August 2021 to contribute to the inundation of wetland vegetation, maintain waterbird feeding and breeding habitat, and provide connection in the lower Macquarie River.
- Relatively small volumes of Commonwealth and NSW water for the environment were also delivered between winter and spring to the mid-Macquarie River/Wambuul and Marshes. This water was delivered to support wetland vegetation recovery, and to help maintain waterbird breeding habitat in ‘event ready’ condition.
- With wet conditions continuing, egrets began nesting in October, and small colonies began to form across the Marshes. By November Burrendong Dam re-filled and the delivery of water for the environment ended as releases from storage maintained flows into the Marshes.
- Large colonies of ibis (Australian white, straw-necked and glossy) and egrets (primarily intermediate and eastern great) were established, along with nankeen night heron and spoonbills. At the end of February 2022 an estimated 90,000 colonial waterbird nests had been established across 31 colonies in the Marshes.
- Further supplementary water for the environment was delivered between February and May 2022 to help support colonial waterbird breeding to completion, provide feeding habitat for young and adult birds, and to extend the connection between the lower Macquarie and Barwon rivers.
- Along with rainfall and tributary flows, water for the environment delivered in 2021–22 helped to inundate large areas of the Macquarie Marshes, including river red gum woodland, coolibah and black box, which had not received water for a number of years. It also helped support a diverse range of waterbirds, including EPBC listed Australasian bittern, and the breeding and recruitment of frogs.
Commonwealth environmental water is planned, delivered and managed in partnership with a number of people and organisations in the Macquarie Valley, including:
- NSW Department of Planning and Environment – Environment and Heritage Group
- Macquarie-Cudgegong Environmental Water Advisory Group
- New South Wales Department of Primary Industries – Fisheries
- NSW Department of Planning and Environment – Water
- Macquarie-Cudgegong Customer Advisory Group
- Murray-Darling Basin Authority
The following video was produced by the NSW Government