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Both Doctors Swamp and Reedy Swamp can receive environmental water via irrigation supply infrastructure within the Shepparton and Central Goulburn irrigation districts. The volume delivered at any one time depends on available capacity in the irrigation supply network.

Reedy Swamp is naturally inundated during high flows (of about 20,000 ML per day) in the Goulburn River. Doctors Swamp can only receive environmental water if the Cattanach Canal is running at 2,500  ML per day and there is available capacity after irrigation demand is met, which is also influenced by the operation of Waranga Basin. Due to this the opportunity to deliver environmental water is greater in autumn and winter.

Environmental watering objectives in the Goulburn wetlands

bird icon
Provide drought refuge, habitat and breeding and feeding opportunities for migratory and colonial nesting waterbirds
Plant icon
Improve the range of native plant life including river red gum and grassy wetland species

Environmental values

There are a large number of natural wetlands across the Goulburn catchment including a number that are formally recognised for their conservation significance (such as Reedy Swamp and Doctors Swamp). The wetlands contain plants ranging from swamps dominated by river red gums to cane grass wetlands.

Reedy Swamp contains a mosaic of plant types including tall marsh, floodway pond herbland and rushy riverine swamp. It is an important drought refuge and nesting site for colonial waterbirds. It is also an important stopover site for migratory birds (such as sharp-tailed and marsh sandpipers).

Doctors Swamp is a bioregionally significant swamp and is considered one of the most intact red gum swamps in Victoria.

Social and economic values

Visitor activities enjoyed at the wetlands include bird watching, picnicking, camping and walking. Doctors Swamp is a state game reserve.

The Goulburn wetlands are identified as a culturally sensitive area under the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.The Goulburn wetlands have been, and continue to be, places of significance for Traditional Owners. The area traditionally supported a rich and diverse supply of plant and animal resources for food, medicines, shelter, clothing and tools.

Conditions mid-2016

Significantly low rainfall and high temperatures meant that there were minimal natural inflows to Reedy Swamp and Doctors Swamp in winter and early spring of 2015.

In 2015–16 environmental water was delivered to Reedy Swamp and Doctors Swamp to support a large diversity of waterbirds and wetland plant species. Large rainfall between October and December 2015 produced some natural flows into Reedy Swamp, which supported the outcomes of the spring watering.

Wetland plants including river red gums responded very well to the spring watering. Monitoring showed an increase in waterbird species (including ducks, swans, yellow-billed spoonbills and ibis) feeding and roosting at both swamps. This included some species listed in the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (such as the eastern great egret).

Scope of environmental watering

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

Potential environmental watering

Environmental objectives

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

  • Maintain as a drought refuge for waterbirds
  • Improve the diversity of wetland vegetation
  • Provide waterbird breeding and feeding habitat particularly for migratory and colonial nesting species

Doctors Swamp (fill in autumn/winter 2017)

  • Maintain the diversity of wetland vegetation
  • Provide waterbird breeding and feeding habitat

Scenario planning

The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority has planned wetland watering to ensure there is a diversity of habitat types to support waterbirds and other water-dependant animals in the region at any point in time.

Reedy Swamp has been identified as a significant drought refuge for waterbirds. It has a high ecological value due to the diverse community of water-dependent plants and animals it supports. It is known to be a large rookery for Australian white ibis, straw-necked ibis and royal spoonbills. In wetter conditions Reedy Swamp will mostly fill from natural inflows, although it is planned to receive environmental water in autumn if it doesn't fill naturally in winter/spring.

Doctors Swamp is a highly valued site for waterbird habitat and wetland plant diversity. Under wetter conditions Doctors Swamp is planned to receive environmental water either in winter/spring 2016 or late autumn/winter 2017. If Doctors Swamp does not fill from natural inflows in winter/spring the priority is to fill the wetland in late autumn/winter to support the optimum watering regime for river red gums.

In drier periods (when irrigation demand is high), there may be capacity constraints in the irrigation networks that may affect environmental water deliveries in the Goulburn wetlands. These potential constraints will be assessed to inform delivery.

In wetter periods, the ecological and hydrological objectives of these wetlands may be largely met by natural inflows. Only small volumes of environmental water may be required to extend the duration or extent of natural flooding.

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

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

Planning scenario1

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)

  • Reedy Swamp
  • Reedy Swamp
  • Doctors Swamp (winter/spring)
  • Doctors Swamp (winter/spring)

Potential environmental watering – tier 2 (additional priorities)2

  • N/A
  • N/A
  • Doctors Swamp
  • (autumn/winter)
  • Reedy Swamp
  • Doctors Swamp (autumn/winter)
  • Reedy Swamp

Possible volume of environmental water required to achieve objectives3

  • 1,235 ML (tier 1)
  • 1,235 ML (tier 1)
  • 500 ML (tier 1)
  • 1,120 ML (tier 2)
  • 500 ML (tier 1)
  • 1,120 ML (tier 2)

Priority carryover requirements

  • 1,235 ML
  • 1,235 ML
  • 500 ML
  • 500 ML

1 If any of the wetlands support significant waterbird breed events in spring/summer environmental water deliveries may be considered to support bird habitat until fledging.

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

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

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.