The Living Murray (TLM) Program was established in 2002 to improve the health of six designated sites (known as icon sites) that comprise over 37,000 hectares of forests, wetlands and lakes along the River Murray. The program is continuing to return water to the environment through purpose built infrastructure that will help deliver water to the icon sites and improve the health of the River Murray.

The six icon sites include:

  • Barmah–Millewa Forest (NSW)
  • Gunbower–Koondrook–Perricoota Forests (Vic)
  • Hattah Lakes (Vic)
  • Chowilla Floodplains and Lindsay–Wallpolla–Mulcra Islands (SA/Vic)
  • Lower Lakes, Coorong and Murray Mouth (SA)
  • River Murray Channel (SA)

The icon sites have been selected due to their high ecological and economic value, as well as their cultural and heritage significance to Traditional Owners. All icon sites are regionally, nationally and internationally significant and are recognised under international agreements such as the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

In 2003, the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council announced the ‘First Step Decision’ to recover 500 gigalitres of water for the environment for the six icon sites along the River Murray, and to construct infrastructure to help increase the efficiency of the delivery of water for the environment.

It was clear a water allocation specifically for the environment was needed in response to a steady decline in natural river flow as a result of over extraction of water, increased river regulation and diversion and a changing climate. The concept of ‘water for the environment’ was developed to reverse the decline, specifically targeting the six icon sites along the River Murray.

Water for the environment is obtained through watering proposals developed each year in consultation with a range of stakeholders. Staff responsible for the management of each icon site consider their site specific ecological and cultural needs and align these with water requirements considering the annual availability of water in the Murray-Darling Basin. Environmental water allocations are sought from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) and the Commonwealth Environment Water Office (CEWO).

TLM remains one of Australia’s most significant river restoration programs of its kind.

The Living Murray is a joint initiative funded by the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian, Australian Capital Territory and Commonwealth governments and coordinated by the MDBA.

More information on The Living Murray Program

South Australian icon sites:

The Living Murray Chowilla Floodplain Icon Site

River Murray Channel Icon Site

Lower Lakes, Coorong and Murray Mouth Icon Site