Spring program underway
The rehabilitation of the region’s rivers and wetlands is continuing over spring, with a focus on dry condition refuges for fish and birds, and vegetation survival.
The North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) has begun its spring watering program, aimed at helping waterways cope with river regulation and climate change.
“River regulation has turned the flows of our rivers upside down and cut off a lot of our valued wetlands,” North Central CMA Program Delivery Executive Manager Rachel Murphy said.
“As a result, they are not getting as much water as they used to, even in wet years. This can have devastating effects on water quality, the health of fish, plant growth and our region’s bird numbers.
“We know our communities love our rivers, wetlands and floodplains, and some are recognised nationally and internationally. It’s our job to keep them alive and, where possible, help them thrive.”
Ms Murphy said water for the environment programs aim to give Mother Nature a helping hand when she needs it.
“There are a lot of waterways across our region, and being efficient with the water available this spring and summer means only targetting the priority ones that can make a big difference,” she said.
“Given the amount of dams, levees and channels in our systems, our wetlands and rivers don’t get the amount of water they need, even in wet years. So when it’s dry, they are starting with a water deficit.
“Water for the environment programs attempt to make up the difference, in volume and duration, between what is and what was, over time, and receive the same allocation percentages as irrigators.
“We manage for what we can, with the water that’s available and within a working river system. Sometimes that means watering in dry times, and modelling shows that even during the driest periods, including the Millennium Drought, most of our wetlands and rivers would have received some water.”
The spring program has begun, with flows into the private Wirra-Lo wetlands at Murrabit West and the culturally significant Reed Bed Swamp in Guttrum Forest.
The Endangered Murray hardyhead fish are the target for small inflows into Lake Elizabeth and Round Lake.
Protection of the tens of thousands of waterbirds that rely on Lake Cullen for survival is the main focus of flows which begin there in the coming weeks, and Lake Yando may also receive water if available.
Water will flow through Johnson Swamp this spring and into Pyramid Creek, a huge boost for native fish. Once enough water has gone into the creek, the wetland will continue to receive water to keep it at the level it needs to be to provide a vital refuge for water birds.
A flow down the Loddon River, Serpentine Creek and Pyramid Creek in the middle of October will help thousands of fish flow through the three waterways to breed and feed, and will also help keep native plants alive over summer.
The successful Campaspe River flows will also continue over spring and summer, to build on the recent impressive results for native fish and platypuses.
Water will also be delivered to Lake Yando to provide a refuge for waterbirds dealing with a dry landscape.
“We work closely with local communities and stakeholders such as fishing, tourist and bird groups, and have community members, including farmers, on all our water advisory groups,” Ms Murphy said.
“Given the delivery of purchased irrigation water is given the priority in our system this season, the total amount of water used and the timing of each flow isn’t usually known until just days beforehand.
“The Current Flows section of our website is updated weekly, so locals can click on that for the most up-to-date information.”
Managing water to look after our valuable rivers and wetlands is part of the State Government’s broader $222 million Water for Victoria initiative to improve the health of waterways and catchments across regional Victoria.
The flows are authorised by the Victorian Environmental Water Holder in line with its Seasonal Watering Plan 2019-20, which is available for download from www.vewh.vic.gov.au, with regular watering updates posted on the North Central CMA website www.nccma.vic.gov.au.