Water for the environment is for everyone
25 February 2019
Reflections: Water for the Environment in Victoria 2017-18 demonstrates that waterways are at the heart of healthy communities and have been strengthened by the establishment of Victoria’s environmental watering program.
Victoria’s environmental watering program is playing a critical role in the long-term health of not only the environment, but also communities. It is protecting and re-establishing threatened species, reinvigorating declining rivers and creeks, and safeguarding internationally important wetlands.
Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH) Chairperson, Denis Flett, says that a new publication, Reflections: Water for the Environment in Victoria 2017-18, demonstrates that waterways are at the heart of healthy communities and have been strengthened by the establishment of Victoria’s environmental watering program.
“Studies show that rivers, creeks and wetlands contribute significant mental health and financial benefits,” Denis said.
“They attract visitors and are places where people gather for events. Camping, picnics, canoeing, birdwatching, walking and bike riding near waterways are part of our everyday lives in Victoria.”
As Victoria’s rivers and wetlands face climate change, a growing population with increased water needs, and ongoing modifications to the landscape at a catchment scale, there is an ever-increasing need for water for the environment to be delivered to these landscapes.
“Every year brings new water challenges and the biggest challenge during the 2017-18 year for environmental watering was dry conditions. 2016 was Victoria’s wettest year since the flood year of 2011, which meant there were good reserves of water in storage for environmental watering in 2017-18,” said Denis.
“A lack of follow-up rain along with a dry and hot summer and autumn, however, placed stress on many communities, rivers and wetlands across the state, particularly in 2018.”
In 2017-18, over 1 million megalitres of water for the environment was provided to 88 river reaches (across 41 rivers) and 83 wetlands.
Denis says Victoria is seeing the benefits of seven years of the VEWH’s environmental watering program and the Victorian Government’s catchment management actions at the state scale.
The Victorian Government has invested a record $222 million over four years to improve the health of waterways and catchments.
“Water for the environment is an integral part of protecting and improving the health of our waterways,” said Minister for Water the Hon Lisa Neville.
Minister Neville commended the Victorian Environmental Water Holder and partners in the environmental watering program for their “continuing focus on using water as efficiently and effectively as possible”.
“I was pleased to see that 82 percent of environmental flows delivered in 2017-18 in northern Victoria were re-used to meet downstream environmental water needs.”
Reflections: Water for the Environment in Victoria 2017-18 shows how environmental flows are producing real outcomes for plants, animals and the community:
- Native fish are moving and breeding further up the Werribee River than previously recorded in response to improvements in the river’s health over recent years, thanks to water for the environment and works to help fish passage.
- The first environmental watering of Bolin Bolin Billabong improved wetland vegetation communities and supported Aboriginal cultural values.
- The Snowy River received its largest ever environmental flow, with 206,000 megalitres released to provide a productivity boost for the river, benefitting fish and other animals. It was also certainly a delight for keen paddlers!
- Scientists recorded the highest catch rates of tupong (a native fish that spends part of its life in saltwater and part in freshwater) in the Thomson River in 14 years - an improvement also seen the year before, due to environmental flows.
- Environmental flows are boosting fish populations in the Campaspe River. Murray cod spawning was recorded for the first time in 2017, and golden and silver perch were recorded migrating into the river from the Murray.
- Hattah Lakes was filled to its highest level since the 1990s to sustain black box woodlands, native fish populations and waterbird breeding.
- Gaynor Swamp saw a waterbird boom after environmental flows were delivered there for the first time, with brolgas arriving at the wetland within a few days of the water going in!
- A trial in the Grampians-Gariwerd National Park introduced water for the environment to the upper Glenelg River for the first time ever, with benefits for the entire floodplain which is critical habitat for aquatic species and endangered animals like the long-nosed potoroo and southern brown bandicoot.
- Several juvenile platypus were found during population surveys in the MacKenzie River, indicating that the population hit hard by river regulation and the Millennium Drought may be slowly recovering with help from water for the environment.
Environmental watering in Victoria is a collaborative program, supported by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), catchment management authorities and Melbourne Water, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, the Living Murray program, land managers and storage managers.
More stories on the benefits of water for the environment in Victoria are available in Reflections: Water for the Environment in in Victoria 2017-18.
Highlights of environmental watering in 2017-18