Careful planning of water for the environment coupled with a helping hand from natural wet conditions may see a reconnection of several mid-Murray wetlands to the Murray River in late July and early August.
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and state agencies have been working together to plan environmental flows down the Goulburn and Murray this winter-spring.
This week, water for the environment started being released from both Eildon Dam on the Goulburn River and from Yarrawonga Weir on the Murray River. The flows are aiming to build on outcomes achieved over the last 12 months by supporting riverbank and wetland plants and increasing habitat and food for fish and waterbirds.
These flows will combine, along with natural inflows from the Murrumbidgee River, to provide benefits down the length of the Murray valley. Flows at Torrumbarry are likely to peak between 18–20,000 megalitres/day. This may see water reaching parts of the floodplains between Torrumbarry and Euston, including at Nyah-Vinifera, Poon Boon Lakes and the Murrumbidgee Junction Wetlands.
The flows will be actively managed and if there is heavy rain, releases of water for the environment may be reduced or stopped. Monitoring of the flows will also be conducted in real-time.
Staff from local agencies will be working with community on the ground to confirm where the water goes. This will help water managers understand how well environmental flows can reach wetlands and floodplains in these areas under current operating limits.
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, Mr Hilton Taylor, said the flows were a great example of how state and Commonwealth agencies are working together to get the most out of the water available for the environment.
“By coordinating environmental flows with natural inflows across multiple valleys, we get the biggest bang from every drop. That said, there is more to be done. Operating rules can limit our ability to deliver environmental flows to reconnect rivers with their floodplains – this is why measures to relax constraints and undertake environmental works under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan are so important” he said.
The Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH) has confirmed delivering water from the Goulburn started 18 July 2022, with any downstream benefits below Torrumbarry weir expected to be seen from late July.
“We know when rivers are connected to wetlands and floodplains, plants, animals and people living along rivers can thrive because our rivers are healthy,” VEWH Co-Chief Executive Officer, Dr Sarina Loo said.
“Floodplains are a major food source for rivers, creating important outcomes for our native fish as we saw in 2021” she said.
This work is being coordinated in partnership with the Victorian, New South Wales and South Australian governments and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and local communities. The flows are being delivered in close collaboration with river operators and local site managers.