Water for the environment provides important refuges in the face of dry conditions
02 December 2019
Each year the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH) works with catchment management authorities, storage managers, Traditional Owners, land managers communities, scientists and stakeholders to deliver water for the environment efficiently and effectively. In 2018-19, 88% of environmental flows delivered in northern Victoria were also re-used to meet downstream water needs.
Extensive planning goes into preparing for all seasonal conditions, including dry and drought, in deciding how to deliver water for the environment.
Much of Victoria is experiencing drier than average conditions and some regions are struggling with restricted water availability. As a result, many rivers, wetlands and farming communities are under stress.
Under these conditions, like all other conditions, it is important that we are transparent in how we use water for the environment and demonstrate the benefit that it provides.
In drought years, environmental watering focuses on only the highest priority sites and seeks to prevent catastrophic losses and maintain critical refuge habitats to prevent significant declines of Victoria’s native populations. It’s important to find the balance so both our community and environment can recover when the dry conditions ease.
A newly released booklet, Reflections: Water for the Environment in Victoria 2018-19, showcases the outcomes of water for the environment with stories from across Victoria.
“Reflections provides a snapshot of what the VEWH and our program partners worked hard to achieve during the 2018-19 watering year,” said VEWH Co-CEO Dr Sarina Loo.
“The publication demonstrates how we make robust decisions to optimise environmental outcomes for enduring benefit through ongoing engagement with our communities,” she said.
“It also shows that in developing strong partnerships and relationships we are strengthening our understanding and management of water for the environment.”
In 2018-19, over 500 gigalitres of water for the environment was provided to 90 river reaches (across 38 rivers) and 78 wetlands – totalling 168 sites across Victoria.
Reflections celebrates all aspects of water for the environment; the environmental outcomes and the Aboriginal cultural, social, economic and recreational benefits that result from the environmental watering program. By improving the health of waterways, environmental flows support healthy communities.
“We really enjoy putting together our annual Reflections publication,” said Co-CEO Ms Beth Ashworth.
“It is a great way to share the success of the environmental watering program, demonstrate the achievements of our program partners and highlight how Traditional Owners and communities connect with and value our precious waterways,” Ms Ashworth said.
Reflections: Water for the Environment in Victoria 2018-19 highlights how environmental flows, along with complementary works and measures, are producing real outcomes for plants, animals and the community. Each region we work in is unique, and working with our program partners, we take this into account when delivering water for the environment.
Highlights for each region include:
The new Thomson River Fishway at Horseshoe Bend was great news for migrating fish, opening up 85 km of new habitat in the upper reaches of the catchment. Across much of Gippsland very dry conditions continued, with water managers focussing on where and how to use available water to optimise environmental outcomes and maintain river health.
In the central region, securing extra water for the environment helped manage dry conditions along the Moorabool River, supporting biodiversity and protecting Wadawurrung cultural values. In the Tarago system, innovative long-term fish mounting is providing crucial information to determine environmental flow deliveries.
A year of firsts for the western region, with the first Australian grayling caught in the Glenelg River for 122 years - a sign that native fish, including threatened species, are recovering with support from efficient environmental flow management. And at Ranch Billabong on the Wimmera River, culture, environment and community came together to mark the first delivery of water for the environment at this significant site for Wotjobaluk Traditional Owners.
Whilst dry conditions continue in the north, water for the environment assists rivers and wetlands by providing refuge for birds and fish and helping build resilience in the entire ecosystem to cope with dry times if they continue. Lake Cullen has provided a haven for around 30,000 birds since water for the environment began in 2018. The VEWH invested in two projects to improve the effectiveness of environmental watering by investing in structures in northern Victoria to enhance and protect fish movement associated with environmental watering events. This investment will also increase recreational fishing opportunities and boost tourism in the area.
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 Victoria 2018-19
Highlights of environmental watering 2018-19
For further information please call
03 9637 8951 or email