The Gwydir catchment supports a diverse range of vegetation. Extensive areas of forest occur in the high altitude areas of the eastern catchment, with a gradual westward change to more open forest, shrublands and grassy plains.
The Gwydir catchment is located in north-western NSW. It is separated from the Border Rivers catchment to the north by the Mastermans Range, and from the Namoi catchment to the south by the Nandewar Range.
Covering an area of 26,600 square kilometres, the Gwydir catchment extends 670 kilometres from the Great Dividing Range to the Barwon River near Collarenebri.
Moree is the largest town in the Gwydir catchment, and the main commercial centre for the surrounding agricultural areas. It is also a major transport and tourism hub, being located at the junction of the Gwydir and Newell highways. Less populous towns are Uralla and Guyra, in the New England tablelands, and Bingara and Warialda in the middle of the catchment.
Rivers and tributaries
The Gwydir River rises in the New England Tablelands near Uralla and flows north-west through steep valleys until it reaches the flat plains near Gravesend. Upstream of Moree the valley widens and the Gwydir River breaks into a complex pattern of creeks, anabranches and wetlands. The Gwydir River's main tributaries are Copes, Moredun, Georges and Laura Creeks, and the Horton River.
The wetlands at the end of the catchment soak up much of the Gwydir River's flow. During flood events water spills out across the floodplain and enters the Barwon River at numerous points.
Real-time flow data
The Office of Water monitors the conditions of river systems in NSW and provides regular updates on water levels, rainfall, water temperature and electrical conductivity.
View real-time data from the Gwydir catchment on this website.
Major water storages
Located on the Gwydir River 35 kilometres south west of Inverell, Copeton Dam is the major irrigation storage within the Gwydir catchment, drawing its water from a catchment area of over 5,300 square metres. With a total capacity of 1,364,000 megalitres, Copeton Dam provides for town water supplies, irrigation, stock and domestic use, industry, and environmental flows along the Gwydir River and its effluent channels. A series of weirs and regulators assist in diverting water to the various watercourses of the Lower Gwydir catchment.
Major water users
Land use in the Gwydir catchment is dominated by extensive agriculture with 70 per cent of the catchment being used for grazing. Major water users in the catchment area include local councils and water utilities, dryland agriculture, livestock grazing and irrigated agriculture, predominantly cotton.
Key water management issues
Sharing water fairly between competing water users and the environment is a key water management issue. Water sharing plans seek to address this issue by setting long-term rules on how water can be accessed, used and traded.
Floodwaters play a vital role in sustaining and replenishing the Lower Gwydir wetlands, and they are highly valued by local agricultural users. The NSW Office of Water is developing a floodplain harvesting policy to better manage floodwater diversions.
The alteration of natural river flows through the construction of dams and weirs and erosion from land clearing affect riverine health and contribute to water quality problems, such as salinity.
Downstream of Moree is an alluvial fan where extensive floodplain wetlands known as the Lower Gwydir wetlands have developed. Covering around 1,000 square kilometres, these wetlands are listed as a site of international significance under the Ramsar Convention. They provide freshwater habitat for many threatened species and support a large number of colonial waterbirds which use the wetlands for breeding.
Water sharing plans
To preserve water resources in river and groundwater systems for the long term, it is critical to balance the competing needs of the environment and water users. Water sharing plans establish rules for sharing water between the environmental needs of the river or aquifer and water users, and also between different types of water use such as town supply, rural domestic supply, stock watering, industry and irrigation.
Water sharing plans in this catchment:
- Gwydir Regulated River
- Gwydir Unregulated and Alluvial
- Lower Gwydir Groundwater
- NSW Great Artesian Basin Groundwater
- NSW Great Artesian Basin Shallow Groundwater
- NSW Murray-Darling Basin Fractured Rock Groundwater
- NSW Murray-Darling Basin Porous Rock Groundwater
- Rocky Creek, Cobbadah, Upper Horton and Lower Horton
Under the Water Management Act 2000 all water sharing plans are required to have performance indicators to assess whether the plans have been effective in meeting their objectives. The Environmental flow response and scoio-economic monitoring. Gwydir Valley progress report 2009 (PDF 4.9 MB) summarises activities undertaken in the previous water year and provides an interim assessment of outcomes from the investigations.
General Purpose Water Accounting Reports
The NSW Office of Water has released General Purpose Water Accounting Reports for the Gwydir catchment providing annual consolidated and informative summaries of water resources availability and water management issues. These reports have been produced using the Australian Water Accounting Standard.
- General Purpose Water Accounting Report 2012-2013 - Gwydir catchment (PDF 2.8 MB)
- General Purpose Water Accounting Report 2011–2012 - Gwydir catchment (PDF 3 MB)
- General Purpose Water Accounting Report 2010–2011 - Gwydir catchment (PDF 5.2 MB)
The water resources and management overview for the Gwydir catchment provides information on climate, land use, the environment, water resources, and river operations and management.
On this page
- Catchment area
- Major towns
- Rivers and tributaries
- Real-time flow data
- Major water storage
- Major water users
- Key water management issues
- Environmental values
- Water sharing plans
- More information
- Great Artesian Basin
- Murray-Darling Basin
- Water accounting
- Water sharing plans commenced