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Northern Basin Toolkit

Fish-friendly Water Extraction project

Growing fish populations by protecting them from irrigation pumps.

Dubbo turf farm. Credit: Tom Rayner
Expression of Interest to Install Modern Fish Screens on Irrigation Infrastructure open.

NSW Department of Primary Industries is seeking Expressions of Interests from progressive water users on the Barwon-Darling River and lower Gwydir River who would like financial and logistic assistance to upgrade their pump intake with a modern fish-protection screen.

Find out more

About the project

The Fish-friendly Water Extraction Project aims to sustain native fish populations and protect vital irrigation infrastructure by installing modern fish screens on water diversions along the northern Murray-Darling Basin.

The installation of modern fish screens will prevent large numbers of native fish from being sucked into irrigation pumps and diverted into irrigation channels.

The screens will provide significant ecological benefits by supporting native fish-populations across the region and improving the health of the river system.

They will also benefit water users by delivering cleaner water and reducing the need to unblock sprinklers and backflush pumps. and will create regional job opportunities during construction.

Many showcase sites have already been retrofitted with new technology across the region, and asset owners are already reporting the benefits of replacing outdated ‘trash racks’.

The project is funded by the Australian Government and is being delivered by the Department of Primary Industries - Fisheries in partnership with Water Infrastructure NSW.

The Australian Government has provided $20.5 million for the project.

Project benefits

This project will have significant environmental and economic benefits in the northern Murray-Darling Basin, including:

  • keeping more native fish in the rivers systems where they belong (modern screens can reduce fish entering water diversions by over 90 per cent)
  • protecting native fish during upstream and downstream migrations, allowing more fish to survive to maturity and boosting native fish populations
  • protecting other aquatic creatures such as platypus, turtles and crayfish which can also be impacted by pumping
  • delivering cleaner water, and reducing maintenance costs to landowners, by preventing debris and fish entering diversions
  • supporting local businesses and creating regional job opportunities during construction and installation
  • improving recreational fishing opportunities across the region, supporting regional economies through increased tourism.

We are continuing to work with stakeholders to identify sites where installations will provide the most benefit to fish and farms, without interrupting water operations.

Project location

The project will focus on the Barwon–Darling and Gwydir Valleys, with the final installation sites to be selected to complement other fish passage works and diversion screening activities being undertaken in NSW and Queensland.

About modern fish screens

Modern fish-protection screens are good for farms and good for fish. They represent a new best practice, with real benefits for businesses and biodiversity.

Modern screens work. They protect 90 per cent of native fish (Boys et al. 2021) and keep clean water flowing to farmers by keeping fish and debris out of irrigation infrastructure and in our rivers.

Modern fish screens are available for all types of water diversions. Different types of screens are available for any size of pump or gravity-fed irrigation channel.  They are also self-cleaning. Modern fish screens feature self-cleaning brushes and water jets to keep their surface clean, meaning less maintenance and downtime for farmers.

More information on modern fish screens.

Stakeholder engagement

We will continue to engage water users throughout the development and delivery of the project, and this feedback will be used as a key input into project decision-making.

Frequently asked questions

View answers to commonly asked questions about the project below:

Who will pay the cost of installing the fish screens on my diversion?

Up to 100% of the total cost of any fish screen solution, and its installation, will be paid for by the Australian Government, with water users responsible for minor ongoing maintenance once installed. Under Round One of the Expression of Interest Program, up to 100% of capital costs for individual installations may be funded if the project fully satisfies criteria including the overall benefit for native fish, project feasibility, value for money and the capacity to improve uptake of screening technology across water use industries.

How do I know what fish screen is right for my diversion?

A variety of design options and screening solutions will be provided to assist water users to find the right technology for their operations.

How can I find out more about fish screens?

Visit the Fish Screens Australia website for more information on modern fish screens.

Contact us for more information


1800 677 572

Photo credit: Tom Rayner, Department of Primary Industries - Fisheries