Joint media release: New report details significant improvements to the health of the River Murray system in South Australia

24 November 2021

Minister for Resources and Water, The Hon Keith Pitt MP
South Australian Minister for Environment and Water, The Hon David Speirs MP


The 9-year Riverine Recovery Project (RRP) has released its final report today detailing the significant economic and environmental benefits delivered by the project to wetlands, floodplains and communities along the River Murray in South Australia.

The $83.3 million project, was delivered across multiple phases, from 2011 to 2019 with funding from both the Australian and South Australian governments.

Federal Minister for Resources and Water, Keith Pitt, said the aim was to deliver environmental benefits through the efficient use of water and to provide water savings for the southern-connected basin to keep the river system healthy.

“It utilised adaptive management and engineering solutions to restore more natural water flows to critical ecosystems along the River Murray between Wellington and the South Australian border”  Minister Pitt said. 

“Importantly the project delivered for communities as well in jobs and economic activity.

“This is just one of the many key investments the Coalition Government is delivering to ensure the Murray–Darling Basin remains the food production powerhouse of Australia by putting local communities back at the centre of the Basin Plan.”

The RRP has allowed for the transfer of 7.245 GL of water entitlements to the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder by using infrastructure to manage inflows to wetlands and reduce annual evaporative losses. 

South Australian Water Minister David Speirs said the report highlighted the RRP has boosted the ecological health of wetlands through the re-introduction of more variable wetting and drying cycles, which has helped maximise water available to the environment by reducing evaporative losses. 

“These results are really pleasing as it shows we’ve been able to address river health by enabling more effective use of environmental water and build better resilience in the River in South Australia,” Minister Speirs said.

“Under the RRP, initial feasibility investigations were conducted at more than 100 wetlands along a 400 kilometre section of the River Murray. From the initial list, work was undertaken on either revising wetland management regimes or constructing wetland regulating infrastructure at 47 different wetlands.”

Minister Speirs said another of the key achievements from the RRP was the delivery of improved in-stream connectivity and flow at both the Pike and Katarapko floodplains. 

When combined with newly commissioned regulators, built as part of the complementary South Australian Riverland Floodplains Integrated Infrastructure Program, these regulators enable regular floodplain inundation and improved creek conditions.  

“What we’ve seen as a result of these investments is a distinct improvement in transport of nutrients and fish passage at these two key locations as well as improved aquatic, riparian and terrestrial fauna habitats,” Minister Speirs said.

“Weir pool manipulation trials, undertaken as part of the RRP, were able to demonstrate the ecological benefits and return more natural variations in river levels using existing weir infrastructure.

“This movement of water levels enabled enhanced environmental benefits from small to medium flows, and provided benefits to in-channel and low-lying wetland and floodplain areas.

“Weir pool raising has now become a routine part of river management and has established a process that is now being applied successively to other lock reaches in South Australia.”

For a full copy of the report visit: https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/topics/river-murray-new/improving-river-health/wetlands-and-floodplains/riverine-recovery-project