|Aerial view of Gunbower Forest in flood.
|Environmental water flooding of
River Red Gums
Waterways, wetlands and floodplains are key life support systems in their own right and help to protect water resources. In doing so they provide a range of ecosystem services. These services include:
|Great Egret - Photo: David Kleinert|
|Kow Swamp - Cultural Diggings|
The region's natural lakes and wetlands provide important recreational opportunities to tourists and members of the local community. They are used for fishing, boating, swimming, bird watching, camping, as meeting places and for hunting. In drawing visitors to an area, they can contribute to economic activity. Recreational fishing alone has been estimated to inject $78 million into the economy of North-West Victoria.
The region's floodplains are the natural paths by which floods are conveyed to the Murray River or lower catchment lakes and wetlands. Development on floodplains has resulted in average annual damage bills from flooding, running to over $23 million. Flooding is an important natural process in lowland river systems. It helps to maintain channel form and is often an essential ingredient for regeneration events. Periodic flooding also flushes salts from the root zone of riparian and floodplain vegetation and is essential in preventing the soils from becoming salinised.
Several of the region's wetlands are used for salt disposal. Salt interception schemes involving Lakes Tutchewop, Kelly, Little Kelly, and William, near Kerang, contribute to a 13 EC unit reduction in Murray River salinity (measured at Morgan in South Australia). While damaging to the natural environment of these wetlands, this use provides substantial benefits for downstream communities and helps to protect irrigated agricultural land, the Murray River and other waterways and wetlands from the effects of salinity. Wetlands used for salt disposal may also present opportunities to develop commercial salt or mineral harvesting or saline aquaculture enterprises. Some streams in the lower catchment irrigation areas form part of the regional drainage network and help to protect adjacent land from water logging and salinity. There has been a dramatic reduction in natural wetland area since European settlement. Thirty seven per cent of Victoria's wetland area has been lost, primarily as a result of drainage.
Many of the region's lakes and waterways have been incorporated into the supply network for domestic, stock and irrigation water supplies. This has resulted in substantial changes to the character and values of a range of wetlands due to the change in hydrology. Some wetlands experience more frequent wetting cycles and even permanent inundation, whilst other wetlands have been cut off from supply and are subject to much drier regimes. The goal for North Central Catchment Management Authority Waterways, Wetlands and Floodplains as outlined in the Regional Catchment Strategy is:
Waterways and wetlands will be managed to enhance their environmental function and, where appropriate, provide opportunities for economic, recreational and amenity use.