The Western catchment region covers 230 000 sq km and supports a population of 18 000 people. It is the largest catchment region in New South Wales and includes the Bourke and Brewarrina shires, significant portions of the Cobar, Central Darling and Walgett shires and a substantial unincorporated area. A significant portion of the region covers 20 per cent of Australia's largest catchment, the Murray-Darling Basin. Major towns include Broken Hill, Ivanhoe, Cobar, Bourke, Walgett, Brewarrina, Lightning Ridge and Wilcannia.
The region encompasses a series of river systems - Barwon-Darling, Culgoa, Paroo, Warrego, Narran, Bokhara and Birrie rivers - some of which are ephemeral. Water resources flowing into the region have come under increasing pressure through diversion for irrigation in recent decades. Groundwater, particularly from the Great Artesian Basin, is critical to the continuing operations of many enterprises in the Western region as surface water sources are often unreliable.
The Western region is one of the largest and most diverse areas of natural rangelands in Australia. Predominant land uses are:
- sheep, cattle and goat grazing
- irrigated agriculture, including cotton and horticulture
- nature conservation.
While the landscape is generally semi-arid, there are important wetlands in the region, including the Narran Lakes Nature Reserve and Lake Pinaroo that are listed under the Ramsar Convention.
Aboriginal people have occupied the Western catchment for forty millennia or more and the region contains many culturally significant sites. The Aboriginal people in the Western region are developing cultural tourism and art enterprises based on this knowledge and heritage.
Biodiversity summaries and species lists for the Western region have been produced by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts using the Australian Heritage Assessment Tool.
For information visit: Biodiversity summaries and species lists for natural resource management regions
The Western Catchment Management Authority manages this region.
For more information visit: www.western.cma.nsw.gov.au