Covering 19,450 hectares, Gunbower Forest is bounded by the River Murray to the north and Gunbower Creek to the south. It 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 the creek through spring, summer and autumn is much higher now than under natural conditions due to irrigation demand. This results in significant ecological impacts including impacts on native fish populations. Environmental water is used to smooth out the variation by filling the gaps in flows caused by irrigation demand within the creek. This 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 functioning (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 hectares 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 of the forest to maintain wetland and floodplain condition.