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New research proves the value that flows from water for the environment

A Northern Victorian-first report highlights that water for the environment makes a significant economic and social contribution to northern Victorian communities, including for agriculture.

By looking at case studies of just a few of the countless benefits at a few key sites, the report shows water for the environment contributes up to $80 million a year to northern Victorian communities, a figure that will more than double over the next decade to almost $170 million a year.

On the results, Beth Ashworth Co-CEO, said “This preliminary report is the first step in finding out more about these positive impacts. The numbers are robust yet conservative, and they are only part of the contribution water for the environment makes to northern Victorian economies and communities.”

We all know the great work water for the environment is doing to keep our rivers, wetlands and floodplain forests alive. It’s doing its job and it’s doing it well.

Benefits for farmers – and so for all Victorians

But did you know water for the environment is also making a big contribution to agriculture in northern Victoria? A big chunk of northern Victoria’s $5.6 billion agriculture industry benefits from insect pollination, especially honeybees. About one in every three mouthfuls of food we eat in Victoria is dependent on bees to produce it. Whether it’s apples, pears, canola, almonds or lucerne, bees can increase the output of a range of crops. Bees need water to survive, and they also need flowering river red gum forests. Water for the environment helps create the right conditions for those bees to thrive.

Ibis are a great help to irrigators in controlling pests such as crickets on their pastures. Water for the environment creates the right conditions for ibis to breed successfully across northern Victoria. Water for the environment also improves water quality by buffering nutrient runoff and diluting algae and salinity. Without water for the environment, millions of dollars each year would be added to the cost of salinity management across Northern Victoria. That’s great news for livestock and those who rely on stock and domestic water supply.

Supporting your wellbeing, and the liveability, recreation and tourism in your town

We all have a strong connection to our part of the world and what makes it special – the bush, the creeks, the wetlands and the rivers. We love our camping, our fishing, our swimming and our kayaking. We love to get away from it all and hunt, bushwalk, picnic, birdwatch and waterski. We love connecting with our ancestors and preserving their way of life for future generations. And to do all this we need clean water, healthy trees, native fish and an abundance of birds. There’s one key ingredient this recipe for perfection needs – water for the environment. Water for the environment makes sure the places that are special to us are healthy today, and that they’ll stay that way for whoever comes next. Water for the environment boosts our region’s recreation and tourism income, for example at places such as the Gunbower Forest, by millions of dollars each year, a figure that will double over the next decade. By helping keep our fish healthy and our bush and wetlands alive, water for the environment is helping the tourism dollar flow through to our local communities.

Helping protect you from climate change

Climate change costs our communities dearly. Every very extreme heatwave costs Victoria about $1 billion, a cost mostly borne by health and agriculture. Even severe heatwaves cost the economy more than $130 million each. Northern Victorian communities and economies suffer more at the hands of climate change than the rest of the state. Healthy floodplain forests and wetlands in northern Victoria help reduce the frequency and intensity of climate events such as drought and heatwaves.  They suck the greenhouse gases in, store them or turn them into oxygen. So, as well as helping our animals survive and giving our communities a place for refuge, water for the environment also helps reduce the cost of climate change. This is valuable for our communities and our farmers – a value that will triple over the next decade.

What if we didn’t have water for the environment?

Without water for the environment, the quality of water in our rivers would deteriorate as would the numbers of plants and animals that rely on them for their survival. Native fish numbers in our icon sites would be about 10 per cent lower than they are now and decrease by another 10 per cent by 2030. The condition of our native plants, including our majestic river red gums, would have decreased 20 per cent over the past decade, a number that could double by 2030. Waterbird numbers would be 20 per cent lower than they are now if we hadn’t had water for the environment over the past decade and will be a further 20 per cent lower if we don’t have it for the next decade.

Delivering water for the environment has been a major Victorian Government program since the 1990s and has taken on an increased significance since the Millennium Drought. This report highlights how water for the environment makes a significant social and economic contribution to northern Victoria. It shows that water for the environment works alongside agriculture, recreation, tourism and our communities, and how important that is.

Click here for a copy of the final report: Socio-economic outcomes of environmental watering in northern Victoria

Further Information

For further information please call
03 9637 8951 or email
general.enquiries@vewh.vic.gov.au.

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Page last updated: 15/02/21