Thousands of gigalitres of water is being released into the Peel River to support the local environment. With drier than usual conditions forecast, the water is being used, as needed, to support native fish in the river. The NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE), in partnership with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH), may deliver up to 4500 gigalitres in the Peel River potentially through to February 2024. DPE Wetlands Rivers and Conservation Officer Paul Keyte said three consecutive wet years had boosted food sources in the river, and created perfect conditions for native fish to thrive. Mr Keyte said maintaining a minimum flow level is now vital to support breeding cycles. "Threatened species such as Murray cod, freshwater catfish, and the northern river blackfish breed when water temperatures rise," he said. "We know that Murray cod start to breed from mid-September, nesting and laying eggs. If river flows reduce, nests will become exposed, and this reduces the chance of successful breeding." Mr Keyte said keeping the river flow at around 100 megalitres a day will support nests and provide an opportunity for the juvenile fish to move between habitats to seek food and shelter. OzFish Northwest coordinator and Tamworth Urban Landcare Group (TULG) project manager Anne Michie has welcomed the watering action. "The environmental water flowing down the Peel will provide many benefits to the local river," Ms Michie said. "The water will continue to provide food and habitat to many critters that call the Peel home, including cod, yellow belly, and the reclusive platypus. "It's fantastic to be able to provide positive results for nature and the river." Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, Dr Simon Banks said the joint watering action was an ideal opportunity to gain maximum benefit from water for the environment. "Working with NSW DPE and other partners gives us a good opportunity to combine resources, evidence and knowledge to deliver for the environment. "Our science program gives us a comprehensive picture of the best conditions for native fish to breed and move so the delivery is timed and managed to produce the best results." As part of the science program a native fish monitoring project has been funded with additional support from NSW DPE. The aim is to gain improved knowledge about native fish communities in the Peel River and how they respond to flows. "The movement of tagged Murray cod, golden perch, freshwater catfish and northern river blackfish is monitored by listening stations in the Peel River to give us information on where, when and how far individual fish travel in response to flows," Dr Banks said. "Water for the environment will also benefit other aquatic animals in the river system. "The proposed release strategy will support platypus food and habitat, with flows covering their primary feeding areas." Environmental flows have not always been a popular way forward. In 2020, as Chaffey Dam hovered around 14 per cent, Water NSW was forced to defend its program of environmental releases.