THE "last little refuge" for aquatic wildlife in the Peel River is under threat after environmental water releases from Chaffey Dam were cut off, according to a local river advocacy group.
OzFish Northwest president Anne Michie said the flows brought life to the section of the Peel River between the dam and the Dungowan weir, so it was a healthy home for fish, platypus and other critters.
"Ceasing all environmental flows up there, we'll possibly see that stretch of river with a cease to flow which could be quite catastrophic for wildlife in the river," she told the Leader.
"Everybody in the community should be quite concerned that we're going to lose that big natural wildlife corridor that is the Peel River, that supports so many wonderful, iconic animals."
OzFish Northwest will keep a close eye on river health and water quality over the next few months, and are prepared to take emergency action if things go belly-up.
The group will consider taking the "last-ditch" effort of rescuing fish and moving them to fisheries and hatcheries.
"There possibly is some decent, beautiful, big old cod and yellow belly living up there, if their waterholes are going to disintegrate, we need to get on the front foot and get them moved so that we don't lose that genetic diversity," Ms Michie said.
Everybody in the community should be quite concerned that we're going to lose that big natural wildlife corridor that is the Peel River, that supports so many wonderful, iconic animalsOzFish Northwest president Anne Michie
She said the 30 megalitres of environmental water - 12 Olympic swimming pools worth - gushing down the river every week was a lifeline for the ecosystem during the drought.
But on Wednesday, the state government made the decision to put a plug in Tamworth's main water supply and stop the releases immediately, to conserve water for human needs.
The Peel River has been running with more gusto through the city of Tamworth lately, amplifying calls for environmental releases to be stopped.
But Ms Michie said the precious resource is coming in from tributaries downstream of the Dungowan weir, like the Cockburn River.
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson and Tamworth Regional Council had both advocated for the flows to be ditched and all water to be held back in the dam for critical human needs.
Chaffey's water levels had been stagnant at around 14 per cent for months despite recent rainfall, triggering the need for more action.
But Ms Michie warned that as we all wait for rain, the town needs to remember to look after its lifesource, the Peel River.
"If we lose our river completely, that's going to be a hugely devastating impact right across the community," Ms Michie said.
"Yes, we need to support town and industry ... but we also need to look after the river."
Ms Michie was surprised to find out the releases had been cut off, after the decision was announced on Wednesday.
"A lot of this happened without a lot of consultation with us as stakeholders," she said.
"It was like oh, okay, they sort of slipped that one through, we thought it was coming at ten per cent ... it was in the back of my mind but I was thinking we're still hanging in there."