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National Water Account 2019

Border Rivers: Region description

  • The Border Rivers catchment is highly dependent on surface water for agricultural purposes.
  • Agriculture is the main economic driver for most of the towns within the region.
  • The Basin Plan, jurisdictional water sharing plans, and interstate agreements between Queensland and New South Wales guide water management in the catchment.


For further geographic information about the region scroll down this page or click on the links below:


General description

Area: 10,000 km²
Population: 50,000 (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS] 2016)

 Map showing the Border Rivers catchment
Figure R1 The Border Rivers catchment


  • The Border Rivers catchment is located in the northern part of the Murray–Darling Basin. The catchment overlaps the border between Queensland and New South Wales.
  • Agriculture, particularly irrigated agriculture, is a major economic driver for most of the towns within the region, including the larger regional centres of Goondiwindi and Stanthorpe.
  • Water use in the catchment makes up around 4.4% of the Murray-Darling Basin's total water use.
  • Grazing and dryland agriculture accounts for approximately 80% of land use in the Border Rivers catchment.
  • As only 13% of the catchment is intercepted by large reservoirs, the Border Rivers is primarily a free-flowing system. The catchment has the highest percentage of pre-development end of system flows of any of the developed catchments in the Murray-Darling Basin.


Water resources

Map showing major storages in the Border rivers catchment; capacity of each storage is also shown
Figure R2 Major storages in the Border Rivers catchment; capacity of each storage is also shown


  • Most of the region's water supply is sourced from the region's three major reservoirs—Pindari, Glenlyon and Coolmunda—mainly for agricultural purposes.
  • Some surface water supply is also sourced from rivers and on-farm storages.
  • Groundwater, also an important water resource within the region for agricultural purposes, is sourced from alluvial deposits (including Border Rivers Alluvium, Macintyre Alluvium, and Ottleys Creek Alluvium), sandstone aquifers in the Great Artesian Basin and fractured rock sediments.


Water management

Water legislation


Water allocation and trading

  • Water resource assessment within the catchment is made by applying a continuous accounting method.
  • Supplementary water (in New South Wales) and water for unsupplemented licences (in Queensland) are allocated after reserving water for priority needs.
  • Unregulated surface water flows can only be accessed once predetermined flow conditions are met and is consistent with the diversion conditions specified in the works or use licences.
  • Access to groundwater is either made under formal allocation announcement or is by default 100% of the entitlement unless restrictions apply.
  • In addition to within-state trade, interstate surface water trade is allowed between New South Wales and Queensland within the Border Rivers catchment.