Case study on river management: Gwydir
These ecologically important wetlands lie in the heart of one of Australia’s largest agricultural areas, and have been suffering for the past 20 years due to water extraction for irrigation, most notably for cotton growing.
The Gwydir River forms part of the Murray- Darling Basin which drains approximately one seventh of the landmass of Australia.
Central to this case study are the floodplain wetlands located along 95km of the Gingham and Lower Gwydir watercourses west of Moree in northern New South Wales.
Following completion of Copeton Dam on the Gwydir River in 1976, irrigation schemes grew rapidly to the point where demand outstripped the capacity of the dam by almost one-fifth.
The upstream diversion of water for irrigation had a significant effect on downstream pastoralists, whose grazing productivity declined by up to 73%.
The drying-out of wetlands also saw a marked increase in cereal cropping on these areas, resulting in further wetland loss.