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Of some 2,000 natural wetlands in the Goulburn Broken area, only three in the Broken catchment (Black Swamp, Kinnairds Wetland and Moodie Swamp) can receive environmental water. The natural water regimes of these wetlands have been greatly influenced by their positions in the surrounding Shepparton, Central Goulburn and Murray Valley irrigation districts, which have changed the timing, frequency, volume and duration of inundation. Environmental watering aims to replace some of the more natural patterns of wetting and drying of the wetlands. Water is delivered to the wetlands using irrigation supply infrastructure.

Environmental watering objectives in the Broken wetlands

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Promote feeding and breeding habitat for waterbirds, particularly for brolga
Plant icon
Maintain or improve the diversity of wetland vegetation
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Maintain populations of nationally threatened plant species (such as ridged water milfoil, slender water milfoil and river swamp wallaby grass)

Environmental values

The Broken wetlands (which include Moodie Swamp, Kinnairds Wetland and Black Swamp) support a diversity of plants ranging from swamps dominated by river red gums to cane grass wetlands. The wetlands contain state and nationally threatened species and communities including rigid water milfoil and river swamp wallaby grass. The wetlands also provide food resources and breeding habitat for bird species listed in international agreements and conventions (such as the brolga and royal spoonbill).

Social and economic values

The Broken wetlands have been and continue to be places of significance for the Traditional Owners of the Yorta Yorta Nation. The wetlands traditionally provided a rich and diverse supply of plant and animal resources for food, medicines, shelter, clothing and tools. Some of the sites have artefacts and scar trees recorded in or adjacent to them.

The wetlands support a range of recreational activities including bird watching, bike riding, bush walking and camping. Moodie Swamp and Black Swamp are state game reserves.

Conditions mid-2016

Significantly low rainfall and high temperatures meant that there were no natural inflows to Black Swamp, Kinnairds Wetland and Moodie Swamp in winter and early spring of 2015.

Environmental watering in 2015–16 included a winter/spring fill in Black Swamp and Kinnairds Wetland to promote a diversity of wetland plants following fires in 2014 and also to support waterbird breeding and feeding. A late-autumn fill was provided to Moodie Swamp to promote the growth of wetland plants to provide habitat for brolga and Australasian bittern.

Black Swamp watering resulted in significant growth of the river swamp wallaby grass, listed in the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. A state-listed rare water nymph was also found for the first time at Black Swamp. The near-threatened magpie geese also roosted at Black Swamp for the first time on record following the spring watering.

Unfortunately, the water delivery regulator at Black Swamp was tampered with several times (in October 2015 and March 2016) which drowned young plants that had germinated in spring following environmental water delivery and also drowned newly planted wetland plants.

Native plants at Kinnairds Wetland responded well to the watering, and for the second time magpie geese were recorded at the wetland. Additional top-ups were provided in late spring and summer to maintain habitat to support magpie geese feeding, roosting and breeding.

Moodie Swamp received environmental water in late autumn 2016. The delivery was to encourage the growth of important wetland plants including southern cane grass and rigid water milfoil and to provide feeding and breeding habitat for waterbirds including brolga and Australasian bittern.

Scope of environmental watering.

Table 1 Potential environmental watering actions and objectives for the Broken wetlands

Potential environmental watering

Environmental objectives

Moodie Swamp (fill in late winter/spring and provide top-ups as required)

  • Maintain the diversity of wetland vegetation
  • Maintain populations of the nationally threatened rigid water milfoil
  • Provide waterbird feeding and breeding habitat, particularly for Brolga

Kinnairds Wetland (fill in late autumn/winter if it has remained dry and the maximum drying regime has been reached; provide top-ups as required)

  • Improve the diversity of wetland vegetation
  • Maintain populations of the nationally threatened rigid water milfoil and slender water milfoil
  • Provide waterbird feeding and breeding habitat, particularly for royal spoonbills and the Australasian shoveler

Black Swamp (fill in late autumn/winter if it has remained dry and the maximum drying regime has been reached; provide top-ups as required)

  • Improve the diversity of wetland vegetation
  • Maintain populations of the nationally threatened river swamp wallaby grass
  • Provide waterbird feeding and breeding habitat

Scenario planning

Landscape-scale planning for these wetlands has been undertaken by the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority to ensure a diversity of habitat types are available to support waterbirds and other water-dependent animals in the region.

Moodie Swamp has been identified as very high priority in all planning scenarios as it supports important cane grass habitat for brolga and Australasian bittern. It also supports a diverse community of water-dependent plants and animals. Watering in winter/spring of 2016–17 is important to build on the plant outcomes from the 2016 autumn watering.

Kinnairds Wetland and Black Swamp have been identified as providing important habitat for waterbirds and wetland plants (including ridged water milfoil and river swamp wallaby grass). If natural inflows do not occur in the wetlands in autumn/winter 2016, environmental water is planned to be delivered to inundate the wetlands to provide conditions that promote plant growth and feeding and breeding opportunities for waterbirds.

In wetter conditions, the ecological objectives at these wetlands are typically met by natural inflows, and only small volumes of environmental water are required to extend the duration or extent of natural flooding. In average to wet conditions autumn top-ups in Moodie Swamp, Kinnairds Wetland and Black Swamp are a priority to support the ecological characteristics of the wetlands.

The decision to deliver environmental water to Broken wetlands will be based on their hydrological condition and waterbird breeding activity, and on the potential impact of environmental watering on wetland plants.

Table 2 Potential environmental watering for the Broken wetlands under a range of planning scenarios

Planning scenario

Drought

Dry

Average

Wet

Expected catchment conditions

  • Catchment run-off and unregulated flows into the wetlands is highly unlikely
  • Catchment run-off and unregulated flows into the wetlands is unlikely
  • Some catchment run-off and unregulated flows into some of the wetlands is likely, particularly in winter/spring
  • Catchment run-off and unregulated flows into the wetlands may significantly contribute to water levels in the wetlands, particularly in winter/spring

Potential environmental watering – tier 1 (high priorities)

  • Moodie Swamp
  • Moodie Swamp
  • Moodie Swamp (winter/ spring)
  • Moodie Swamp (winter/spring)

Potential environmental watering – tier 2 (additional priorities)2

  • N/A
  • N/A
  • Moodie Swamp (autumn/winter)
  • Kinnairds Wetland
  • Black Swamp
  • Moodie Swamp (autumn/winter)
  • Kinnairds Wetland
  • Black Swamp

Possible volume of environmental water required to achieve objectives1

  • 500 ML (tier 1)
500 ML (tier 1)
  • 500 ML (tier 1)
  • 1,060 ML (tier 2)
  • 500 ML (tier 1)
  • 1,060 ML (tier 2)

1 Environmental water requirements for tier 2 actions are additional to tier 1 requirements.

2 If tier 2 wetlands have exceeded their optimum drying periods within the 2016–17 water year and have not received any natural inflows, they would be increased to a tier 1 priority for autumn/winter in 2017 to protect their ecological values.

Risk management

In preparing its seasonal watering proposal, Goulburn Broken 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.

Engagement

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 Goulburn Broken region communities are involved in decisions about the Goulburn River and wetlands, Broken River and wetlands and the Murray River and wetlands. This happens through formal advisory groups: Environmental Water Advisory Groups focusing on rivers, a wetland advisory group and the Barmah Millewa Operations Advisory Group.

Who is engaged and how

Recreational users

Through formal advisory groups, recreational users provide local advice and raise opportunities for 'shared benefits' including whether the timing of environmental watering may align with key recreational events such as cod and duck opening. Recreational users are informed of environmental water deliveries and provide data that assists with reporting on the outcomes of environmental watering.

Goulburn-Murray Water directly engages with recreational user groups that use Goulburn-Murray Water water storages for recreation through planned consultations and meetings to discuss storage levels and potential impacts of environmental water releases from storages.

Environment groups

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.

Landholders/farmers

Through formal advisory groups, farmers and landholders (who often own land with river frontages) provide local knowledge and land management advice. They are also informed of environmental water deliveries and provide data that assists with reporting on the outcomes of environmental watering.

Traditional Owners

Through the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority Indigenous Facilitator, the Yorta Yorta Nation (responsible for managing some land and reserves in the region) is given the opportunity to provide input to seasonal watering proposals through annual briefings with the Catchment Management Authority.

There are Yorta Yorta representatives from the Goulburn Broken 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 Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations on strategic (often longer term) issues related to environmental watering.

Councils

Through the wetland advisory group (due to their role as land managers for some wetlands), Councils provide local advice.
They also support local advertising during water delivery and share data for reporting.

Goulburn-Murray Water consults with the Greater Shepparton City Council and the Moira Shire Council regularly on water management, including on environmental water management.

General public

The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority communicates through their website, media releases, advertisements in local papers, a column in Country News, in the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority bi-monthly newsletter, social media, radio, community forums and partnered research.