Imagine camping beside a wetland knowing it has as much water as it has because of you? Avid bushwalker and landholder Christiane Jaeger can do just that.
Over the past 12 years, she has donated a total of 50 ML of water to the environment. In 2008, 3 ML of the water was used to keep 300 and 500-year-old red gum trees alive.
"I put my money where my mouth is. It gives me a sense of integrity to live my values," says Christiane who lives and works in the Mildura region in north-west Victoria where she holds about 20 ML of water shares.
"I know I'd be better off financially if I put the water on the market. My ethical conscience is very high and environmental watering is important for enhancing biodiversity on floodplains."
It's a modest water entitlement and previously she used it to grow cut flowers and stone fruit on her 2.5 ha block. Now she works away from the farm and with only a couple of ponies to support she has water left over each year.
The Victorian Environmental Water Holder has accepted regular water donations from organisations during its five-year history but Christiane is the only individual who has donated.
In 2015–16, she donated 28 ML, which included water she carried over from the previous year. At the time she donated it, the water was worth about $7,000. Some of the donated water has been delivered to wetlands near Christiane including the Butlers Creek system and Brickworks Billabong. They're part of the lower Murray wetlands which span more than 700 km of floodplain along the River Murray. The vast area makes the wetlands regionally significant.
The dominant tree species are river red gum and black box, providing habitat for birds and reptiles (such as lace monitors) and mammals (such as bats). Brickworks Billabong is a permanent saline wetland providing habitat to the critically endangered Murray hardyhead fish.
The lower Murray is a popular spot with campers, anglers and bird watchers. Aboriginal culture is strongly linked to the floodplains, which were an abundant food source.
Christiane developed an affinity for the Australian bush after migrating from Germany in 1981 and working as a jillaroo and later living and working in a central Australian Aboriginal community.
Her conservation efforts don't stop at donating water. She has also purchased land under a Trust for Nature conservation covenant to permanently protect remnant vegetation. The land also contains Bullock Swamp, which had environmental water delivered to it in 2014–15.
She says, "I think it's my ethical obligation to respect, look after and care about other forms of living.
"Besides the ethical reasons, a narrow focus on human needs has real-world harmful effects on people. In the riverine environment, unwillingness to share the available water with the whole ecosystem of which we are part destroys the riverine ecosystems. Yet, research has shown that we need exposure and contact with a healthy natural environment for psychological health and wellbeing. I guess it's a legacy of our evolution as human beings."
The Victorian Environmental Water Holder is extremely grateful to donors like Christiane. If you would like to donate water to the environment call us on 9637 8951 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.