You might think that all water in a river is water for the environment, but in fact water is released into rivers at different times for very different purposes.
Some for farms to irrigate; some for households to use; and some specifically for plants and animals at different stages of their lifecycles.
That's the part we call environmental water and it makes up less than a quarter of all the water released into our river systems.
Environmental water is not just about the amount of water flowing through a river, it's about the timing of that water flow, making sure the right amount of water is in the right place at the right time so that when fish, birds, turtles and other animals need water to trigger feeding, breeding, fledging or migration, that water is available for them.
The natural flow of our river systems was with high flows in winter and low flows in the hotter months of summer.
Now our rivers run higher in summer when water needs to be delivered for farming and urban use.
By turning these natural river flows upside down, we have impacted on the river and wetland processes that our native plants and animals need to feed, breed and survive.
Environmental water can help restore that natural balance. We can't return our river systems to pre-European conditions, but we can work to mimic some aspects of the original conditions and minimise some negative effects.
Rivers are the lifeblood of Victoria. They have a pulse.
The volume, timing, duration, frequency and quality of the entire river flow matters. Rivers can't work to their optimum and fish can't breed if the river is flat lining. We need environmental water to breathe life into our river system – creating highs and lows, where and when we need them. When we have healthy river flows, everyone benefits – recreational users, communities, the economy, and the environment.
To ensure these benefits flow on into the future, we need to ensure the ongoing health of our waterways.
We need water for the environment.