Media Release: Why water when it's wet: annual environmental watering plan responding to flood.
10 July 2023
Being ready to respond to what waterways, and the plants and animals that depend on them need following widespread flooding is a key aspect of the Seasonal Watering Plan 2023-24 being released today by the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH).
The Seasonal Watering Plan 2023-24 is released annually to outline environmental watering actions for the ‘boom and bust’ cycles of floods, drought, and everything in between for the Gippsland, central, western and northern regions of Victoria.
Dr Sarina Loo (CEO, VEWH) said the environmental watering actions for 2023-24 had been developed on the back of several consecutive wet years in most river systems, culminating in the flood events of 2022.
“Preparing this year’s plan considered both the benefits and risks of environmental watering after the flood events.
“For example, water for the environment may be delivered to maintain food supplies following large bird breeding events, or a decision may be made not to water a wetland to allow a drying period to help manage excessive carp numbers and support plant communities such as what is planned for 2023 in some Central Murray system wetlands including Hird Swamp,” she said.
While wet conditions were experienced late 2022, by autumn rainfall was lower than the long-term average in most regions. Climate forecasting indicates La Nina is weakening and the extended period of wetter, cooler conditions is likely near its end.
In highly regulated systems, environmental water can extend the duration of high natural flows.
“A focus for 2023 is providing environmental watering to maintain habitat including food sources to support bird breeding, and to provide spring flows for spawning fish.
“We know that carp numbers have exploded following the floods, but we also know there have been significant bird breeding events that will need water to survive – if the rainfall cannot provide natural flows, we will give nature a helping hand,” Dr Loo said.
Waterway managers, including catchment management authorities and Melbourne Water, have collaborated with Traditional Owners and engaged with technical experts and local communities to provide grass roots input to the Seasonal Watering Plan 2023-24.
“The importance of listening and learning from Traditional Owners, scientists and community members is always a big part of developing the seasonal watering plan for waterway managers.
“Shared knowledge and learning together becomes even more vital on the back of extreme events such as the recent flooding,” Dr Loo said.
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