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Published: 04 February 2019   •   Media release

Up to 26 gigalitres of water for the environment is being released to the lower Murrumbidgee over coming weeks to improve river flows and help reduce the risk of further fish losses in the lower Murrumbidgee.

Areas of the Lower Murrumbidgee between Hay and Balranald in Western New South Wales are on high alert for fish deaths due to algal blooms, high temperatures and low flows. Up to 2,000 fish have reportedly died in the Lower Murrumbidgee – the majority being carp and native golden perch.

Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) Jody Swirepik said the coordinated release of water for the environment has commenced to reduce water quality risks associated with low oxygen conditions behind the weirs.

"The situation is constantly changing, and there are no easy fixes. We are working closely with NSW agencies, scientists, local government and the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to develop water for the environment flows that are responsive to new information as it becomes available," Ms Swirepik said.

"There are limited allocations in the Murrumbidgee catchment this year. We are working hard to co-ordinate the use of the small amounts of water we have, to improve conditions to help the native fish survive."

Michael Kitzelmann, the General Manager of Balranald Shire Council, said these water deliveries will provide important refuges for native fish and promote movement of fish and other aquatic animals to those refuge areas.

The release will include water from multiple water holders, including the CEWH, The Living Murray initiative (coordinated by MDBA), and the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage.

MDBA Executive Director of River Management Andrew Reynolds said the release was an example of Basin water managers working together to, where possible help mitigate against further fish deaths.

"Environmental water holders are doing everything they can to help fish, other wildlife and vegetation survive the current extreme conditions," Mr Reynolds said.

"However, while some water is available for the Murrumbidgee, the drought and low inflows mean water storages are too low to increase flows in many other parts of the Basin.

"Unfortunately, fish deaths are regular events across Australia, particularly in summer, and more events are likely before the drought breaks."

Information about fish deaths is available at the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries website on https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/habitat/threats/fish-kills.

Contact the CEWH at media@environment.gov.au
Contact the MDBA Media office at media@mdba.gov.au or 02 6279 0141

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