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The main tributaries of the Campaspe River are the Coliban River, McIvor and Pipers creeks upstream of Lake Eppalock and Mount Pleasant, Forest and Axe creeks downstream of Lake Eppalock. Below Lake Eppalock, the major in-stream structure is the Campaspe Weir, which was built to divert water to the Campaspe Irrigation District. It is no longer used for water diversion, but is a barrier to fish migration. Higher flows usually spill over the weir. The Campaspe Siphon, just downstream of Rochester, is part of the Waranga Western Channel, which carries water from the Goulburn system to western Victoria. Water can be released from the Waranga Western Channel into the lower reaches of the Campaspe River, but the siphon is another barrier to fish migration at low-to-moderate flows.

Flows downstream of Lake Eppalock are largely influenced by releases from storage and the operation of the Campaspe Weir and the Campaspe Siphon near Rochester. The Campaspe’s major tributary — the Coliban River — flows through the three Coliban Water storages — the Upper Coliban, Lauriston and Malmsbury reservoirs — before reaching Lake Eppalock. Water for the environment is held and released from Lake Eppalock, with some limited ability to regulate flows further downstream at the Campaspe Weir.

Water for the environment is released from Lake Eppalock to support aquatic plants and animals in and along the river. It can be supplemented by water for the environment delivered via the Waranga Western Channel at the Campaspe Siphon, which provides important flexibility to meeting reach 4 demands. Water for the environment is primarily used to improve the magnitude and variability of flows during the winter and spring. Primary flow measurement points are at Barnadown (reach 2) and downstream of the Campaspe Siphon (reach 4).

Goulburn-Murray Water transfers operational water from Lake Eppalock to customers in the River Murray and to downstream storages (such as Lake Victoria). These inter- valley transfers (IVTs) usually occur in summer/autumn and can significantly increase flows in the Campaspe River at a time when flows would naturally be low. High IVT flows may reduce the amount of suitable habitat for juvenile fish, which rely on protected, shallow areas of water near the edge of the river channel. They can also drown streamside vegetation. Storage managers and the CMA have been working cooperatively to enhance the positive effects and limit any negative effects IVTs may have on native plants and animals. For example, IVTs have been released in a pattern to support native fish migration from the River Murray into reach 4 of the Campaspe River, without affecting delivery to downstream users.

System map

Campaspe System
Grey river reaches have been included for context. The numbered reaches indicate where relevant environmental flow studies have been undertaken. Coloured reaches can receive environmental water.

Environmental watering objectives in the Campaspe River

Fish icon
Provide habitat to help protect and increase populations of native fish
Platypus icon
Maintain the resident platypus population by providing places to rest, breed and feed, as well as opportunities for juveniles to disperse
Plant icon
Maintain adult river red gums and provide opportunities for successful recruitment

Maintain the extent and increase the diversity of riparian vegetation

Increase the extent of in-stream aquatic plants
Insect icon
Increase waterbug productivity
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Maintain water quality in deep pools and prevent stratification in summer

Reduce the risk of blackwater events in summer

Environmental values

The Campaspe River downstream of Lake Eppalock provides important habitat for several native fish species including Murray cod, silver perch, golden perch, Murray- Darling rainbowfish and flat-headed gudgeon. Murray- Darling rainbowfish were presumed lost from the system during the Millennium Drought, but since 2011 they have been recorded at many sites on the Campaspe River and are now abundant downstream of Elmore. Maintaining flows is important for migration opportunities and dispersal of native fish species throughout the Campaspe system.

Platypus, rakali (water rats), turtles and frogs are also present along the length of the Campaspe River. The streamside vegetation zone is narrow and dominated by large, mature river red gum trees that support wildlife (such as the swift parrot and squirrel glider).

Recent conditions

The Campaspe system had below-average rainfall and above-average temperatures throughout 2018–19. January 2019 was especially hot across the system.

There were few unregulated flows from tributaries in 2018– 19, and Lake Eppalock did not spill. The dry conditions led to high operational water demand in the Murray and Goulburn systems. Large volumes of IVTs were delivered from the Campaspe system to meet these demands; and despite few unregulated flows in the Campaspe River, the high operational flow meant that conditions were more like average in summer/autumn. The North Central CMA worked with ecologists to advise storage managers about minimising risks to environmental values throughout this period.

The Campaspe River received several planned environmental flows in 2018–19. Water for the environment was used to deliver winter low flows from 1 July 2018, with a small break (cease-to-flow) for three days in early August due to maintenance works at the Eppalock outlet tower. IVTs were delivered from mid-August to mid-September.

A winter/spring high flow of 1,500 ML per day for six days commenced in mid-September, before resuming the low flow of 200 ML per day. The winter/spring high flow was delivered in September, to ensure low and stable flows during the critical Murray cod nesting period in October. IVTs resumed in late October and continued through summer and autumn. Water for the environment was used to deliver several summer/autumn freshes, to maintain water quality.

Monitoring of native fish and vegetation continued in the Campaspe River in 2018–19 as part of the Victorian Environmental Flows Monitoring Assessment Program (VEFMAP). Murray cod larvae were detected for the second year in a row, and eggs or larvae of Australian smelt, flat- headed gudgeon, carp gudgeon, redfin and carp were also detected. Very few young-of-year fish were caught in the surveys, which indicates a lack of recent recruitment. Rapid changes in river flows and lower water temperatures as a result of IVTs during the spawning period could be having an adverse affect on the survival and recruitment of young native fish.

Scope of environmental planning

Table 1 Potential environmental watering actions and objectives for the Campaspe River

Potential environmental watering action

Functional watering objective

Environmental objectives

Summer/autumn low flows (10–40 ML/day during December to May)

  • Maintain backwater habitat for zooplankton and nursery habitat for native fish
  • Maintain habitat for native in-stream vegetation to colonise the channel margins
  • Promote the growth of biofilms to support macroinvertebrates and provide habitat for fish
  • Maintain the water quality and depth in deep pools in summer
  • Allow platypus to safely move between pools while foraging and ensure adequate food for lactating females
Fish iconPlatypus iconPlant iconInsect iconWater drop icon

Winter/spring low flows (up to 20–70 ML/day during June to November)

  • Maintain pool and riffle habitat to support macroinvertebrate communities and feeding habitat for fish and platypus
  • Allow localised fish movement by maintaining adequate depth between pool habitat
  • Facilitate the long-distance movement of male platypus, especially in the August to October breeding season
  • Provide foraging opportunities across a wide range of habitats for female platypus to develop fat reserves before breeding
  • Maintain water quality by preventing pools stratifying
Fish iconPlatypus iconInsect iconWater drop icon

Winter/spring freshes (up to two freshes of 1,000-1,500 ML/day for two to five days during June to November)

  • Flush accumulated leaf litter from the bank and low benches, to reduce the risk of blackwater events during managed flow releases in summer
  • Maintain soil moisture for established river red gum and woody shrubs
  • Maintain connectivity to allow fish movement, which in turn allows them to optimise their habitat and perhaps breed
  • Encourage female platypus to select a nesting burrow higher up the bank to reduce the risk of high flow later in the year flooding the burrow when juveniles are present1
Fish iconPlatypus iconPlant iconInsect iconWater drop icon

Higher winter/spring low flows (50–200 ML/day during June to November)

  • Maintain pool and riffle habitat to support macroinvertebrate communities and feeding habitat for fish and platypus
  • Allow localised fish movement by maintaining adequate depth between pools
  • Facilitate the long-distance movement by male platypus, especially in the August to October breeding season
  • Provide foraging opportunities across a wide range of habitat for female platypus to develop fat reserves before breeding
  • Maintain water quality by preventing pools stratifying
  • Prevent terrestrial plants colonising the lower sections of the riverbank and low benches in the channel
  • Maintain soil moisture in the riverbank for established river red gum and woody shrubs
  • Help establish littoral vegetation
Fish iconPlatypus iconPlant iconInsect iconWater drop icon

Summer/autumn freshes (three freshes of 100-200 ML/day for two to three days during December to May)

  • Promote the local movement of adult fish, to access alternative habitat
  • Wet submerged wood and flush fine silt and old biofilms, to promote new biofilm growth and increase macroinvertebrate productivity
  • Facilitate the downstream dispersal of juvenile platypus in April and May to colonise other habitat areas
  • Inundate low bars, benches and low portions of the bank to maintain fringing and emergent vegetation
Fish iconPlatypus iconPlant iconInsect icon

1 'Or natural' means that flow rates may be above or below the specified target rates depending on inflows and climatic conditions.

Engagement

Table 2 shows the partners and stakeholder organisations the North Central CMA engaged in preparing the Campaspe system seasonal watering proposals.

Seasonal watering proposals are informed by longer-term regional catchment strategies, regional waterway strategies, environmental flow studies, water management plans and other studies. These incorporate a range of environmental, cultural, social and economic perspectives and longerterm integrated catchment and waterway management objectives. For further details, refer to the North Central Regional Catchment Strategy and the North Central Waterway Strategy.

Table 2 Partners and stakeholders engaged in developing the Campaspe system seasonal watering proposals

Partner and stakeholder engagement
  • Individual Landholders
  • Commonwealth Environmental Water Office
  • Goulburn- Murray Water
  • Victorian Environmental Water Holder
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
  • Local canoe clubs
  • Victorian Game Authority
  • Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation
  • Taungurung Land and Waters Council
  • Yorta Yorta Nation
  • Aboriginal Corporation