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Catchment snapshots


The Shoalhaven is a smaller catchment which transfers water to Sydney through the Shoalhaven Scheme.

Aerial view of Shoalhaven hospital looking west with the sun setting over the Shoalhaven River

About the Shoalhaven

The Shoalhaven is a smaller catchment which transfers water to Sydney through the Shoalhaven Scheme.

The Shoalhaven catchment is on the NSW upper south coast and has an area of 7,300 square kilometres. The catchment extends predominantly north to south, and the majority is inland, with only a small portion of the eastern boundary made up by the coast.

Major towns in the catchment include Nowra, Bomaderry, Braidwood and Berry.

Rivers and tributaries

The Shoalhaven River has 4 main tributaries, the Mongarlowe, Corang, Endrick and Kangaroo rivers, and is highly valued for its wild and scenic attributes. Other tributaries include the Ettrema, Boro, Reedy, Danjerra, Yalwal, Broughton, Broughton Mill and Yarrunga creeks.

The Shoalhaven River flows through a large coastal floodplain before entering the Pacific Ocean at Shoalhaven Heads.

Water storages

The Shoalhaven catchment's only large water storage is Tallowa Dam, on the Shoalhaven River, with a capacity of 110,200 megalitres. It is part of the Greater Sydney water supply system, and is owned and operated by WaterNSW.

Tallowa Dam provides water to Shoalhaven Water for local town water supply, and transfers water to Sydney to supplement Sydney's water supply in times of drought as part of the Shoalhaven Scheme.

Aside from the Tallowa Dam system, which includes Fitzroy Falls Dam, there are no large water storages in the Shoalhaven River Basin and it is considered an unregulated system.

Water users

Major water users in the catchment include WaterNSW, Shoalhaven Water, local councils, tourism, dairy farming and fishing. Tallowa Dam provides water for use in both the Shoalhaven and the Southern Highlands. The tidal sections of the river support a significant oyster industry.

Environmental values

The Talyawalka Lakes are a series of 19 large overflow lakes fed by Talyawalka Creek, an anabranch that leaves the Darling River near Wilcannia. They are not often full, but are of national significance for their waterbird habitat.

The sinuous nature of the Barwon-Darling River has resulted in the formation of many small lagoons and anabranches along its length. These provide valuable local wetland habitat after floods.

Key water management issues

NSW and Queensland manage the catchment's cross border systems. Sharing water resources between the states, and supplying consumptive and environmental needs, are key water management issues.

Securing water for critical human needs, while protecting riverine health, is a key challenge during drought. Parts of the catchment were in severe drought between 2001-2009, and again in 2017-2019.

Weirs on the river alter the natural flow regime. Water extraction also affects riverine health and contributes to water quality problems, like salinity and algal blooms.

Managing flows for the environment, including protecting flows from extraction, has become a key issue in recent years.