Adequacy of environmental assessment of the proposed Macquarie River pipeline to the city of Orange

Justin McCann

Supervisor: Richard Kingsford


There is increasing pressure on Australia’s rivers and groundwater resources to meet demand for irrigation and urban water supplies. As a result, wetlands and rivers have degraded, particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin. The proposed Macquarie Pipeline was the main component of a drought relief strategy, aiming to meet current water demand and secure allocated supply for projected urban demand.

Our project aimed to investigate the adequacy of the Environmental Assessment process specifically because of the potential for ongoing cumulative impact to the already stressed downstream river system and particularly the Ramsar-listed Macquarie Marshes.

We modelled flows in the Macquarie River, including the effects of increasing populations in the catchment. We then compared these modelled estimates for diversions to those in the models from the Environmental Assessment, and examined the potential for increased diversions once the infrastructure for pumping is established.

The likely environmental impacts of any disparity, particularly in terms of reduced flows to downstream ecosystems, were assessed using published literature.

We examined the potential options for accessing water, given current supply and demand constraints, and identified the implications of increased diversions from a stressed river of the Murray-Darling Basin and its internationally important Ramsar-listed wetland, given current water management planning frameworks and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

  • Macquarie River
    Macquarie River
Professor Richard Kingsford
Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science
Justin McCann
PhD candidate