Birchs Creek is a tributary of Tullaroop Creek. There are two main storages in the system—Newlyn Reservoir and Hepburn Lagoon—which regulate streamflows for urban and irrigation supply. Environmental water is held in and delivered from Newlyn Reservoir. The target reach for environmental water is reach 3 because it contains the vulnerable river blackfish population, and most irrigation supply is diverted before reaching this most downstream reach.
Environmental watering objectives in the Birchs Creek
Birchs Creek supports native fish including a significant population of the regionally vulnerable river blackfish as well as mountain galaxias, flat-headed gudgeon and Australian smelt. Platypus are present in the creek in low numbers.
Social and economic values
Birchs Creek is popular among the nearby community for its aesthetic appeal and intrinsic value. Water in the Birchs Creek system supports irrigated agriculture of crops, particularly potatoes.
In 2015–16 the Birchs Creek catchment was very dry. Rainfall was substantially below-average in winter and spring and as a consequence inflows to storages were extremely low.
The trigger for allocating water to the the Victorian Environmental Water Holder's environmental entitlement was not met in the Birchs Creek system in 2015–16, and environmental water releases were therefore not possible. Water to the creek was supplied from localised surface and groundwater inflows through small allocations of consumptive water delivered through the system and through storage management that reserved water for delivery for critical human and environmental needs.
Scope of environmental watering
Table 1 Potential environmental watering actions and objectives for Birchs Creek
Potential environmental watering
One summer/autumn fresh (27 ML/day for 3 days in December–May)
If average or wet conditions eventuate in spring, 100 megalitres (ML) of water in Newlyn Reservoir may be reserved and called on to provide a summer/autumn fresh if required.
If conditions remain dry in winter and spring 2016 it is unlikely that environmental water will be available for use later in the year. If water availability in the system is again very low, the only water able to be delivered in the creek will be for irrigation supply and to meet critical needs (for example, for domestic and stock supply and critical environmental flows).
Table 2 Potential environmental watering for Birchs Creek under a range of scenarios
Potential environmental watering
Possible volume of environmental water required to achieve objectives
In preparing its seasonal watering proposal, North Central Catchment Management Authority considered and assessed risks and identified mitigating strategies relating to the implementation of environmental watering. Risks and mitigating actions are continually reassessed by program partners throughout the water year.
Waterway managers meet communities on environmental watering regionally,
although other program partners also play a role.
In each region of Victoria, community engagement on environmental watering happens when environmental watering objectives and priorities are scoped (long term and annually), when delivering environmental water, and when reporting on environmental watering results.
In the North Central region communities are involved in decisions about the Loddon and Campaspe river systems, Murray river system including Gunbower Forest and some of the wetlands connected by the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline. This happens through formal advisory groups: Environmental Water Advisory Groups including river and wetland focused groups and the Gunbower Island Community Reference Group.
Who is engaged and how
Through formal advisory groups, recreational users provide local advice and raise opportunities for potential 'shared benefits' from environmental watering. Through Environmental Water Advisory Groups, recreational users are informed of environmental water deliveries and provide data that assists with reporting on the outcomes of environmental watering.Goulburn-Murray Water engages with recreational user groups (such as Save Lake Eppalock and Lake Meran Users Group) that use water storages for recreation through planned consultations and meetings to discuss storage levels and potential impacts of environmental water releases from storages.
Through formal advisory groups, environment groups provide local knowledge, land management advice and advocate for the environment. They are also informed of environmental water deliveries and provide data that assists with reporting on the outcomes of environmental watering (including citizen science monitoring data such as providing bird counts).
formal advisory groups, farmers and landholders (including those who own
private wetlands that receive environmental water) provide local knowledge and
land management advice regarding environmental watering.
They are also informed of environmental water deliveries and provide data that assists with reporting on the outcomes of environmental watering. Goulburn-Murray Water engages (and often) with consumptive entitlement holders (often irrigators) and landholders (often with river frontages).
Through the North Central Catchment Management Authority Indigenous Facilitator, Traditional Owners from the Barapa Barapa, Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta Nations are given the opportunity to provide input to seasonal watering proposals. The Catchment Management Authority and the Barapa Barapa Nation have conducted a cultural values mapping project in Gunbower Forest which will eventually enable cultural values to be incorporated in Gunbower environmental water planning. The Barapa Barapa and Yorta Yorta Nations undertake monitoring of cultural values in Gunbower Forest.
There are Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta representatives from the North Central region who are members of the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations. The Victorian Environmental Water Holder, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and the Murray Darling Basin Authority engage the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations on strategic (often longer term) issues related to environmental watering.
Councils are invited to participate in formal advisory groups meetings. Goulburn-Murray Water consults with the City of Greater Bendigo, Gannawarra Shire and Swan Hill Rural City Council regularly on water management, including on environmental water management.
The North Central Catchment Management Authority communicates and engages with the general public through their website, media releases, newsletters, public notices, community forums, community events (such as tours of Gunbower Forest during environmental watering), social media and direct contact to interested parties by email distribution list.