Environmental water management isn't always about 'adding water'. One of the success stories of 2016-17 involved lowering the water levels of an internationally important wetland.
Healthy wetlands require varying water levels, to help a wide variety of plants and animals with differing water needs. Until this year, Reedy Lake, a wetland in the Lower Barwon River system, was suffering from having too much water for too long. Water levels at the lake had remained high for over a decade allowing reeds to 'choke' the lake and crowd out other important plants and animals. This loss of habitat had been impacting on endangered coastal saltmarsh communities and the number and diversity of internationally important migratory waterbirds the wetland supports.
The wetland had literally had too much to drink and needed a good 'dry'. Corangamite CMA worked with local community members, the Lower Barwon AdvisoryCommittee, Parks Victoria and the VEWH, to put in place a plan to lower water levels at the lake.
"If we don't act, one of the last remaining areas of endangered coastal saltmarsh communities in the Corangamite Region will be lost, the dominant reeds will choke the wetland, carp will multiply and the wetland will no longer be able to provide a haven for a range of internationally important birds," explained the CMA Chair Alice Knight.
"Lowering water levels at Reedy Lake is an important management action that we believe will mitigate threats to the system and ensure all user groups can continue to use and cherish the lake into the future."
A low-water level regime began in 2016-17 as outlined in the seasonal watering plan. Levels at Reedy Lake are now to be lowered each summer for three years, with full water levels maintained in every fourth year.
Waterway managers, with the support of the VEWH, are keeping a close eye on the lake to see how it responds to the new approach. Monitoring at this site is already showing signs that the low-water level regime is working, with clear evidence of reed reduction.
Black-winged stilt at Reedy Lake, by Saul Vermeeren