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We all benefit from a healthy environment. The Murray–Darling Basin is home to more than 2 million people and more than 40 First Nations. It supports 120 waterbird species and more than 50 native fish species. It contains internationally protected wetlands and trees that are hundreds of years old.

This environment needs water to be able to support people, plants and animals.

Having enough water means a healthy river system where:

  • birds from as far away as the Arctic have a refuge and breeding place
  • fish breed and move through the rivers triggered by ebbs and flows
  • birds cross the landscape pollinating plants and eating insects
  • aquatic plants filter water and keep it clean
  • vegetation helps to control erosion
  • locals and tourists can enjoy bird watching, fishing, bush walking, camping, swimming and boating.

Over time, our rivers have changed

Natural droughts and the increasing demand for water means a decline in the health of the river system. In some locations we take up to 50% of water for domestic, industrial and agricultural use.

Water used to flow over the landscape with natural high flows in winter and low flows in summer. Now we store water and release it from dams when we need it. This impacts the ecosystem and processes needed for healthy plants and animals.

Less water moving through the system causes problems like:

  • increased salinity
  • outbreaks of algae
  • loss of native animals due to destruction of breeding spots and food sources
  • loss of vegetation, like River Red gums and grasses, which affects water quality and native animals looking for food and shelter.

An improving system

We are working to improve the health of the rivers and the surrounding environment.

Water is recovered through improved efficiency, new irrigation infrastructure and water purchases. Some of this recovered water is set aside for the environment. It's used when and where it is most needed to supplement natural flows.

    Evaluating the outcomes

    Recovered water is used to preserve the wetlands, rivers and creeks across Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and South Australia. The Murray–Darling Basin covers over 1 million square kilometres.

    To make sure plants and animals can breed, feed and survive, extra water is released at certain times in certain places to achieve specific outcomes.

    Our aim is to bring the Basin back to a healthier and sustainable state, while maintaining productivity for the benefit of all Australians. This will take time.

    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