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The Barmah–Millewa Program

The River Murray system is Australia's largest regulated water supply system, providing around 4,000 gigalitres (GL) of water entitlements valued at an estimated $20.3 billion to water users and environmental water holders.

Project objective

The Barmah–Millewa Program aims to identify options to:

  • improve the movement and efficiency of water delivery through the Barmah–Millewa Reach
  • protect the health and cultural integrity of the river.

The problem

TThe river’s regulated flow capacity through the Barmah–Millewa Reach is reducing due to the build-up of sand on the bed of the river from gold mining and land clearing practices upstream in the 1800s.

What have we learnt so far

A feasibility study was completed in 2022 to investigate and assess the feasibility of options to maintain, and where possible, reinstate the capacity to deliver water downstream of the Barmah–Millewa Reach. This Barmah–Millewa Feasibility Study was presented to the Murray–Darling Basin Ministerial Council on 24 February 2023.

The Barmah–Millewa Feasibility Study has confirmed that the Barmah–Millewa Reach will see an ongoing accumulation of sand with associated adverse environmental, cultural, social and economic impacts.

The study has identified a range of options that may be technically feasible to help address these adverse outcomes.

The final Barmah–Millewa Feasibility Report, Traditional Owner engagement – ‘what we heard report’ and a package of technical options reports are available in the downloads section at the bottom of this page.

Basin Ministers agreed to further investigate a preferred suite of options to the next stage of development. This suite of options seeks to halt the declining capacity and reinstate +500 ML/day of capacity and includes the following options:

  • Sediment Management work within the Barmah–Millewa Reach.
  • Increased use of the Murray Irrigation Limited. infrastructure by using existing outlets and upgraded selected outlets.
  • Enhanced use of the Victorian Mid-Murray Storages (excluding Ghow Swamp): through operational changes and infrastructure upgrades to mitigate the risk of delivery shortfalls.
  • Improving the timing of transfers of water to Tar-Ru (Lake Victoria) with consideration of environmental flows and reducing unseasonal flows.
  • Enhanced use of the Murrumbidgee Weirs through operational changes to mitigate the risk of a delivery shortfall.

What happens next?

From July 2023, the Barmah–Millewa Program is moving into the next stage of detailed investigation into each of the above options. There has been no decision to implement any of the options.

The selected options (listed above) will undergo detailed investigation in conjunction with the previously agreed and funded option of targeted river works within the Barmah–Millewa Reach to stabilise banks and avoid new breakaways into the surrounding forest.

Each new option requires further technical development and thorough assessment against cultural, environmental, and social values and economic criteria to determine if they are ultimately viable. Each option will progress through a series of decision gateways before implementation of any potential solutions. Basin Ministers have committed $2.35 million to MDBA to further develop the above suite of options in 2023 and 2024.

Assessment of environmental, cultural, social and economic costs will be informed by working with Traditional Owners and communities. The outcome of the engagement will feed into the decision gateways.

As the Reach is significant to First Nations and for supporting Ramsar listed wetlands, particular focus and consideration is being given to environmental and cultural needs.

Related information


Barmah–Millewa Feasibility Study – Final report
Barmah–Millewa Feasibility Study – Feasibility study report
Barmah–Millewa Feasibility Study – Additional study reports
Barmah–Millewa Feasibility Study – Traditional Owner engagement – what we heard, Interim report
Barmah–Millewa Feasibility Study – Options summary report
Barmah–Millewa Feasibility Study – Suite of options report
Barmah–Millewa Feasibility Study – Individual Option Technical reports
Barmah–Millewa Feasibility Study – Technical report: Victorian options investigation
Barmah–Millewa Feasibility Study – Technical Report: MIL options investigation
Barmah–Millewa Feasibility Study – Using the Snowy Scheme and Murrumbidgee River System to augment Murray River flows