Rivers, waterways and wetlands

A large percentage of Murray is classified as wetland. Wetlands can be flowing or static, fresh water or salt water, and are commonly called lakes, swamps, wetlands or seasonally waterlogged flats.

Murray is in Bindjareb Boodja, which means ‘swamp country’ in Noongar. The Bindjareb are the people of the wetlands and key to the area. 

It is estimated that up to 80 per cent of wetlands across the Swan Coastal Plain have been cleared, filled or drained since European settlement. Therefore, it is critically important that the remaining wetlands are protected and managed in an ecologically sustainable way.

Wetlands are places of high biodiversity. They act as the kidneys of the land and are vital for its health.

Wetlands and wetland functions are important life support systems that shelter and sustain an incredible diversity of plants and wildlife, with many of these species reliant on the resources that wetlands provide and are critical to their survival.

Murray's wetlands and waterways

  • Peel-Harvey Estuary 
  • Barragup Swamp
  • North Yunderup Lake
  • Lake Mealup 
  • Lake McLarty 
  • Murray River
  • North Dandalup River
  • Serpentine River
  • Goegrup Lake 
  • Nine Mile Lake 
  • Black Lake
  • Yalbanberup Pool.

Serpentine River (Waangaamaap Bilya) is one of the three main rivers that discharge into the Peel-Harvey Estuary, along with the Murray River (Bilya Maadjit) and Harvey River. The Serpentine River Action Plan and Murray River Action Plan both provide a basis for rehabilitation works and a summary of baseline conditions.

Ramsar Wetlands

The Peel-Yalgorup System, the largest and most diverse estuarine system in South West WA, was recognised under the Ramsar Convention in 1990. It’s made up of the Peel-Harvey Estuary and the lands and lakes of Yalgorup National Park, Lake McLarty, Lake Mealup and Roberts Bay Swamp.

The 26,530ha system supports a huge number and diversity of residential and migratory waterbirds. It provides habitat for fish breeding and nursery grounds for fish, crustacea and birds, as well as rare living ‘rocks’ known as thrombolites. 

104 species of waterbirds have been recorded in the Peel-Yalgorup System, 35 of which are international migrants. Some fly up to 24,000km every year from their breeding grounds in northern Asia to Australia, where they spend the summer feeding on the mudflats and foreshores of the estuary and surrounding wetlands.

A plan for the protection of the Peel-Harvey estuary (Bindjareb Djilba) is a whole-of-government approach to protecting the estuary and its internationally recognised values.

Healthy Estuaries WA

This State Government program focuses on improving the health of a number of WA estuaries, including the Peel-Harvey.  

The program includes work to reduce nutrient inputs, monitor and manage waterways long term and continuous collaboration between community, scientists, government and industry. 

Since 2010, more than 290 South West WA farmers have participated in projects to keep livestock out of drains and waterways. The Healthy Estuaries WA program has seen up to 450km of fencing installed with an additional 200km being installed in 2024. 

Fencing and revegetating waterways can increase farm productivity as well as biodiversity.

Stock that has access to drains or waterways: 

  • Degrade the natural environment. 
  • Contaminate the water (directly or indirectly).
  • Introduce excess nutrients. 
  • Decrease waterway’s ability to support a healthy ecosystem.
  • Cause erosion and sediment runoff. 
  • Destroy soil structure through compaction.
  • Damage foreshore vegetation through eating and trampling.
  • Destabilise the banks.
  • Lead to a lower water quality that can have flow on effects downstream.

Funding assistance

Peel Harvey Catchment Council (PHCC) offers funding for landholders within the Healthy Estuaries WA Peel-Harvey Estuary catchment.