Water-saving proposal opposed by Macquarie Valley farmers determined to save wetlands, diverse wildlife

Water-saving proposal opposed by Macquarie Valley farmers determined to save wetlands, diverse wildlife

Landholders on a network of creeks in the Macquarie Valley say an important wetland will dry up if a proposal in the region’s draft water strategy is put into place.

The draft Macquarie-Castlereagh Regional Water Strategy lists an option to restrict flows of regulated water from the Macquarie River into the Gunningbar, Duck and Crooked creeks — also known as the effluent creeks — as a water-saving measure during drought times.

During the drought, communities in these regions would instead receive water for domestic and industrial needs via a new pipeline proposed in the plan.

The pipeline would also allow for water savings to be sent to the nearby Macquarie Marshes if needed in dry times.

In wet or average years, regulated water will still flow to the creeks.

Simon Cant is a dryland cropper and cattle breeder living on Crooked Creek.

He said the habitat around the creek hosted a diverse range of wildlife, which would suffer if water flows were reduced.

Creeks map
The effluent creeks run downstream of Warren. (Supplied)

“If we were to pipe it, that would impact the turtles and the spoon bills and the ibis, the night herons, the black swans that nest and breed here,” he said.

Landholders on the creeks say what they call the ‘”Western Marsh” deserves water in drought times just as much as the Macquarie Marshes did.

But not everyone feels the same way.

Gary Hall is a beef producer whose family has lived on the edge of the Macquarie Marshes for generations.

He said he would only support an option to continue sending regulated water to the creeks under certain circumstances.

Unlike the creek system, he said, the Macquarie Marshes didn’t receive a base flow of regulated water year-round and, as a result, experienced a drying phase that the creeks did not.

“We would agree to environmental water being delivered to those effluent creeks, if and when they also experience a drying phase, like the Macquarie Marshes do,” he said.

‘Can’t cut your nose off to spite your face’

Mr Cant said the Macquarie Marshes, which have just had their largest water bird breeding event since the 1990s, were getting crowded.

Red-wing parrot
Landholders say the Western Marsh supports diverse species, including the red-wing parrot.(Supplied: Neil Zoglauer)

On a recent trip there towards the end of the breeding season, he came across a number of dead birds.

“Because of the dense population, viruses have gone through … so it’s a fairly important factor that we spread that genetic base over a wider feeding ground.”

The marshes around the creeks provided that wider feeding ground, he said.

The creeks have been regulated by what the Department of Planning and Environment says is a constant flow of water since the Burrendong Dam was built in the 1960s.

Mr Cant said the ecology of the creeks had changed so much with river regulation like dams and weirs, that “natural flows” would no longer sustain the creeks in dry times.

“There’s a danger when we start talking about a water course in terms of water savings and efficiency, we suddenly reduce it to a financial value,” he said.

“Ecosystems are a little bit messier than that.”