Covering 19,450 ha, it is bounded by the River Murray to the north and Gunbower Creek to the south. It is an internationally significant site under the Ramsar Convention and forms part of the Living Murray Gunbower-Koondrook- Perricoota forests icon site. River regulation and water extraction from the River Murray and Gunbower Creek has reduced the frequency, duration and magnitude of flood events in Gunbower Forest. This has affected the extent and condition of floodplain habitats and the health of plant and animal communities (such as river red gum and black box communities, native fish, birds, platypus, frogs and turtles) that depend on those habitats.
Gunbower Creek is managed primarily as an irrigation carrier and supplies the Torrumbarry Irrigation Area from the River Murray. Daily variations in water levels in the creek through spring, summer and autumn are much higher now than under natural conditions, due to changing irrigation demand. Frequent or rapid fluctuations in water levels can greatly affect native fish populations and other ecological processes. Water for the environment is used to reduce water level fluctuations by filling the gaps in flows caused by irrigation demand within the creek. This action supports native fish migration and breeding and promotes other ecological processes while maintaining water delivery for irrigation needs.
The Living Murray structural works program in the middle and lower forest was completed in 2013. The works allow up to 4,500 ha of the wetlands and floodplain to be watered with considerably less water than would be required if the new watering infrastructure was not in place. The works enable efficient watering through Gunbower Creek and the forest to maintain wetland and floodplain condition, and they provide a link between the creek, forest floodplain and the River Murray. Frequent connections between the river and floodplain habitats allow biota to move between habitats, and they also support critical ecosystem functions (such as carbon exchange).