Focused on protection

By Country News

The environmental watering outlook for the Murray-Darling Basin will focus on protecting critical habitat for native fish and waterbirds ahead of possibly warmer and drier than average conditions in 2019-20.

Murray-Darling Basin Authority science and knowledge division executive director Colin Mues said the watering outlook, released on Thursday, was published each year to guide the efforts of environmental water managers.

‘‘If hot and dry conditions and low inflows continue into next year, then environmental water allocations could be well below average,’’ Mr Mues said.

‘‘In these conditions, environmental water will be best used to target and protect critical habitat for native fish and waterbirds that is most at risk of being lost if this drought continues.

‘‘Environmental water holders receive the same allocations as other holders of the same entitlements, and when there isn’t much water available, allocations will be low.

‘‘Many of the basin’s rivers, wetlands and floodplains have not recovered from the millennium drought.

‘‘The outlook highlights that some important wetlands and floodplain forests, including key sites for waterbirds, have not received water for long periods due to the prolonged dry conditions.’’

The outlook identifies key watering opportunities that are likely to be a priority for environmental water delivery in 2019-20, including the Koondrook-Perricoota Forest upstream of Barham in southern NSW.

‘‘Fish deaths in the lower Darling and other basin catchments in the past few months are a graphic demonstration of the stress the system is under,’’ Mr Mues said.

‘‘It highlights the importance of fully implementing the (Murray-Darling) Basin Plan so we can restore the rivers to health.’’

The basin-wide environmental watering priorities for 2019-20 will be finalised and released in June and will incorporate feedback from basin stakeholders on the actions outlined in the outlook.

For more information, visit: www.mdba.gov.au/publications/mdba-reports/basin-environmental-watering-outlook

■Community feedback about the outlook can be provided by emailing: engagement@mdba.gov.au or by phoning 1800 230 067.