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Healthy waterways for everyone

Everyone who uses the waterways of the Murray–Darling Basin benefits from a healthy river environment. From farmers to fishers, tourists to townspeople, healthy rivers keep us fed with high-quality produce, provide recreational and nature-based activities, and promote vibrant rural communities and businesses. They also sustain unique plants, animals and iconic landscapes that are an essential part of the river ecosystem.

Water for the environment explained

‘Water for the environment’ is used to improve the health of our rivers, wetlands and floodplains. Water is allocated to federal and state environmental water holders across the Basin, who make decisions about when, where and how much water is released for the environment, and with measurable environmental outcomes in mind.

Why we need water for the environment

Our rivers have changed. As agriculture, industries and communities have grown over time, water use has increased dramatically—as much as 50% of natural flows are removed from the river in some locations. Water for the environment aims to restore river health by delivering planned flows to where nature needs it. This water would have run naturally in the environment before development.

Deciding where water goes

There are a number of priorities and strategies that help us and our partners make decisions about how to use water for the environment across the Basin. We consider the health of the entire Basin, alongside regional considerations; and our plans are aimed at both the short and long-term needs of the system.

From the overarching Basin-wide strategy through to annual plans for individual sites, we and our partners prioritise watering across the basin to help achieve long-term environmental outcomes.

Delivering water for the environment

Delivering the right amount of water for the environment, in the right places and at the right times is complex. Through use of ‘works’—water-control structures including dams, weirs, locks, levy banks, pumps and regulators—water is released to selected sites at specific times to ensure the best possible environmental outcomes. Most of the water continues to flow downstream, where it provides additional benefits to the river system.

Progress and outcomes

We work closely with our partners to monitor the results of water for the environment across the entire Basin. We then use these results to guide planning for water management in the future. Since our activities commenced in 2006, we have seen significant environmental improvement across the Basin.

The Murray–Darling Basin is a huge, interconnected river and groundwater network. Progress can be rapid, slow or intermittent depending on a large range of factors, which we track and report on regularly.

The impact of water

See how releases of water for the environment have combined with variable natural rainfall and river flows to change the health of the Basin waterways.

Water over time