Gunbower Forest is a large, flood-dependent forest situated on the River Murray floodplain in northern Victoria between Torrumbarry and Koondrook. Covering 19,450 ha, it is bounded by the River Murray to the north and Gunbower Creek to the south.
Gunbower Forest is an internationally significant site under the Ramsar Convention and forms part of the Living Murray Gunbower–Koondrook–Perricoota icon site. River regulation and water extraction from the River Murray and Gunbower Creek has reduced the frequency, duration and magnitude of flood events in Gunbower Forest over the long term. This has affected the extent and condition of habitat and the health of dependent animal communities.
Gunbower Creek is managed primarily as an irrigation carrier and supplies the Torrumbarry Irrigation Area from the River Murray. The daily variation in water levels in the creek through spring, summer and autumn is much higher now than under natural conditions due to changing irrigation demand. This significantly affects native fish populations and ecological processes. Environmental water is used to smooth out the sudden and frequent changes in water level by filling the gaps in flows caused by irrigation demand within the creek. This action supports fish migration and breeding and promotes other ecological processes while maintaining water delivery for irrigation needs. Flows linking the creek to the Gunbower Forest floodplain and the River Murray can be restored through environmental watering and are vital to enhance ecosystem function (such as carbon exchange).
The Living Murray structural works program in the middle and lower forest was completed in 2013. The works allow up to 3,800 ha of the wetlands and floodplain to be watered with considerably less water than would be required under natural conditions. The works enable efficient watering through Gunbower Creek and the forest to maintain wetland and floodplain condition.