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We want to know what you know! How the Lake Cullen community helped inform water management decisions.

Community members are a wealth of local knowledge. Sharing this knowledge can be instrumental in adapting water management decisions. North Central CMA and the VEWH have listened to feedback from community members in the Kerang Wetlands region, resulting in excellent outcomes for Lake Cullen.

Forming part of the central Murray wetlands, Lake Cullen is an important part of the internationally recognised and protected Kerang Wetlands, supporting thousands of waterbirds of many different species. The lake is a popular spot for birdwatching and hosts some of Australia’s endangered species including the Australasian bittern and freckled duck.

In planning for and delivering water for the environment, North Central CMA has been guided by the Lake Cullen Environmental Water Management Plan (EWMP). The watering regime developed in the EWMP in part relied on a technical groundwater report prepared during the Millennium Drought. The report suggested that when Lake Cullen fills, saline groundwater could be pushed into the neighbouring Avoca Marshes, with potentially negative consequences for the marshes and surrounding environment.

Based on this hypothesis, the watering regime for Lake Cullen recommended that the marshes need to be full when filling Lake Cullen to reduce the risk of saline groundwater intrusion.

North Central CMA Water for the Environment Program Manager Louissa Rogers said that local community members and landholders shared a different theory based on their knowledge and observation of the landscape over time. This led North Central CMA to undertake further scientific investigation, which confirmed the local knowledge.

“What we found was very little interaction at all between the two water bodies, which was great news. It presented the local community with a rare opportunity - locals wanted to see the benefits of the bird breeding, including the tourism benefits, flow on for another year, and asked if water for the environment could be added again,” Louissa said.

“We all understand the current dry conditions are tough, and the local community is working side by side with the CMA and the VEWH to deliver water for the environment to make the region a better place to live and visit.”

North Central CMA worked with the Loddon Murray Wetlands Environmental Water Advisory Group and the wider community to deliver water for the environment to wetlands in the region this year.

“The Loddon Murray Wetlands are important for the region’s economy, especially for tourism. The wetlands are key attractions for recreation, education, cultural connections and social wellbeing,” Louissa said.

“About 30,000 birds across 60 different species were recorded on Lake Cullen in 2018, and the community advisory group was keen to give them a chance to survive the very dry conditions this year by providing high quality refuge habitat. With most of the nearby wetlands drying up, Lake Cullen is now taking on extra importance. It is better for all these birds to stay there and breed than to have to find another home.”

A photo of Lake Cullen with water reeds and a tree covered with cormorants in the foreground

Cormorants at Lake Cullen, by North Central CMA