Water is flowing into one of the most important waterbird breeding sites in Australia thanks to much needed rainfall and a joint effort between the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) and the QLD government.
Decent flows into the Narran Lakes in north-west NSW are helping the wetland come back to life after years of drought. Traditional owners and scientists monitoring the flow are reporting that animals are emerging from the dry lake bed and important bird-nesting plants are getting a much-needed drink. Waterbirds are expected to start arriving in the coming weeks.
The participation of the Traditional Owners in the monitoring is particularly significant as the Narran Lakes, or Dharriwaa to the local Yuwaalaraay / Euahlayi First Nations peoples, is a highly significant cultural site and meeting place.
“Throughout the years of dry times, we’ve continued to come out on country, but always saddened to see the river and lake dry. The gungan (water) coming down now has been a blessing for all – for the animals and plants, but also the people of Dharriwaa”, said Brendan ‘Odee’ Welsh of the Narran Joint Management Committee.
Around a hundred gigalitres is expected to make it to Narran Lakes as a result of QLD water plans and Commonwealth environmental water licences, including water accessed for the first time from overland flow licences.
An additional eight gigalitres will reach Narran Lakes as part of a pilot project, which will reimburse a private licence holder for not pumping water. This pilot project has now finished and resulted in more water in the river consequently reaching thousands of hectares of stressed habitat in the area.
“This successful pilot project shows how we can top-up the Commonwealth’s water to achieve more environmental outcomes at important sites such as the internationally significant Narran Lakes,” said Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, Jody Swirepik.
“This is the most water to reach the Narran Lakes since 2012. We are thrilled to see nature start bouncing back to life in such an important part of Australia” she said.
- Narran Lakes is one of the most important waterbird breeding sites in Australia.
- More than 50,000 nests have been found at the site during previous large floods. Narran Lakes has also recorded some of the largest gatherings of waterbirds in Australia - 200,000 in 1983 and over 100,000 waterbirds in 2011.
- Dharriwaa is of immense cultural significance for local First Nations peoples.
- Water under Queensland water planning arrangements provided the foundation for this flow.
- Queensland enforced flow management rules to reduce the amount of take by irrigators by 10 percent (21- 25 February and 1-5 March).
- The pilot project is an example of a how a Toolkit measure can provide flexibility to achieve environmental outcomes in an unregulated system, while also recognising irrigation requirements.
- More information can be found at CEWO website here: https://www.environment.gov.au/water/cewo/catchment/rebuilding-waterbird-habitat-narran-lakes