Keeping the river running in the corridor
14 December 2016
The Campaspe River downstream of Rochester is a special part of the world. River red gums that pre-date European settlement line its banks and provide a safe home for the endangered sugar glider.
The river itself creates a safe passage for the area's vital platypus population, and is an important home for once-abundant water rats.
In the river, the tract is a popular fishing spot, with Murray cod the prized catch. It is also home to the spectacular Murray Darling rainbowfish.
However, in summer, that section of the river can struggle.
"There are very few irrigation customers downstream of Rochester, and while irrigation flows can only do so much for the health of the river, water needs to get to other sections over summer to make a difference," North Central Catchment Management Authority Environmental Water Manager Louissa Rogers said.
"With storages stopping upper Campaspe and Coliban flows from reaching the lower Campaspe, and irrigation flows being diverted above the syphon, without environmental flows the Rochester to Murray River corridor of the Campaspe would stop flowing for long periods over summer, and that can cause problems for the river.
"When flows stop, pools are created, which can become incredibly salty and affect the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water. Both of those by themselves can be a fatal cocktail for fish and plants. Together they can be disastrous.
"A lack of flow can also make it harder for platypuses and water rats to survive. Instead of being able to swim from one part of the river to the next, they are forced to run the fox gauntlet and scurry between pools. Fish need to swim between deeper and shallow habitats, and a lack of flow can make this almost impossible.
"We lost a generation of platypuses to the recent floods and it's important we don't lose too many more."
To help prevent saline pools forming and help provide suitable conditions to help fish, platypus and water rats survive summer, the yearly Campaspe River summer low flow will begin in the coming weeks.
"We will target this section of river with a flow downstream from Eppalock of up to about 20 ML a day, with peaks of up to 50ML a day," Ms Rogers said.
"The flow will run until May to allow the water to reach the Rochester corridor and provide the refuge these plants and animals need over summer.
"Due to recent conditions, the Murray River can experience black water events. This flow has the potential to allow the Rochester to Echuca section of the river to become a safe haven for fish and Murray crayfish seeking refuge, if things deteriorate. In fact, that happened very recently, when the Campaspe had much healthier dissolved oxygen levels than the Murray. "
Environmental flows in the Campaspe River are planned and managed by North Central CMA in partnership with the Victorian Environmental Water Holder, Goulburn-Murray Water, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office, The Living Murray, the Victorian Government Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and community representatives.
North Central CMA
Tel: 03 5440 1884 or 0409 720 610.