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Birchs Creek is a tributary of the Loddon River located in the southern-most part of the catchment. The creek rises in the ranges north- east of Ballarat and flows north-west through Newlyn and Smeaton before joining Tullaroop Creek near Clunes. The lower parts of the catchment are extensively cleared where the creek meanders through an incised basaltic valley. The creek contains a regionally significant platypus community and a vulnerable river blackfish population.

Birchs Creek is part of the broader Bullarook system which contains two small storages — Newlyn Reservoir and Hepburn Lagoon — which provide water for irrigation and urban supply. The storages fill and spill during winter or spring in years with average or above-average rainfall.

Birchs Creek receives tributary inflows from Rocky Lead, Langdons, Lawrence and Tourello creeks. Groundwater provides reliable baseflows to the downstream reaches of Birchs Creek in most years.

The VEWH is allocated 100 ML in Newlyn Reservoir on 1 December each year, provided that seasonal determinations in the Bullarook system are at least 20 percent. Any unused allocation from 1 December can be carried over until 30 November of the following water year, but if Newlyn Reservoir spills from 1 July to 30 November, the volume held in carryover is lost. Any water remaining on 30 November is forfeited. When seasonal determinations are below 20 percent, the VEWH does not receive an allocation, and the system’s resources are shared equitably to protect critical human and environmental needs.

Traditional Owners
Storage manager
Environmental water holder

Environmental watering objectives in Birchs Creek

Increase the population and diversity of small to medium-bodied native fish including river blackfish, mountain galaxias, flat-headed gudgeon and Australian smelt

Re-establish populations of small to medium- bodied native fish in reaches 1 and 2 of Birchs Creek
Platypus icon
Maintain the breeding population of platypus and increase the number of individuals to improve the population’s resilience to future droughts and floods

Provide opportunities for platypus dispersal to Creswick and Tullaroop creeks
Plant icon
Maintain and improve the diversity and abundance of in-stream aquatics

Maintain a diverse variety of fringing and riparian native vegetation communities
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Increase the population of waterbugs and the diversity of functional groups to drive productive and dynamic food webs
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Maintain water quality to support aquatic life and ecological processes

Environmental values

Birchs Creek supports threatened aquatic plants and its deep pools provide habitat for aquatic animals during dry periods. The creek contains native fish including regionally- significant populations of river blackfish and mountain galaxias as well as flat-headed gudgeon and Australian smelt. Recent monitoring indicates that platypus are present throughout the entire creek.

The removal of willows along the creek in 2018 has led to observed improvements in in-stream vegetation and the presence of small-bodied fish.

Traditional Owner cultural values and uses

In planning for environmental flows in Birchs Creek, Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation and North Central CMA have identified the creek as a potential site for future projects.

The Dja Dja Wurrung Country Plan describes their aspirations around the management of rivers and waterways and articulates Dja Dja Wurrung peoples’ support for the reinstatement of environmental flows as an overall objective for the management of water on Country. The North Central CMA and Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation continue to work towards increased engagement on planning and delivery of environmental watering activities, including identifying opportunities for Dja Dja Wurrung involvement.

Social, recreational and economic values and uses

In planning the potential watering actions in Table 1, North Central CMA considered how environmental flows could support values and uses including:

  • water-based recreation (such as canoeing and fishing)
  • riverside recreation and amenity (such as improving amenity at key community spaces like Anderson’s Mill)
  • community events and tourism (such as education activities like school groups and River Detectives)
  • socio-economic benefits (such as diverters for irrigation, domestic and stock uses).

Recent conditions

The Birchs Creek catchment experienced below-average rainfall and above-average temperatures throughout 2019–20. High rainfall in August 2019 caused Newlyn Reservoir to fill and spill, which meant the VEWH forfeited allocation that was carried over from 2018–19. Newlyn Reservoir is a very small water storage and modest inflows cause it to spill in most years. The VEWH received a full allocation of 100 ML in December 2019, and that water will be available for use until 30 November 2020 unless Newlyn Reservoir spills again.

The combination of spills from Newlyn Reservoir, tributary inflows, consumptive water orders and groundwater discharge met and at times exceeded the dry scenario environmental flow recommendations for Birchs Creek during 2019–20.

Scope of environmental watering

Table 1 Potential environmental watering actions and objectives for Birchs Creek

Potential environmental watering

Functional watering objective

Environmental objectives

Spring fresh (one fresh of 30 ML/day for three days during September to November)

  • Maintain and support the growth of streamside vegetation by increasing soil moisture and depositing sediment on the bank and benches
  • Scour organic matter that has accumulated in the channel and cycle nutrients throughout the creek
  • Wet benches and smaller channels, to increase habitat and refuge for small fish
  • Freshen refuge pools and provide connectivity between pools for fish and platypus movement
Fish iconPlant iconWater drop iconPlatypus iconInsect icon

Autumn freshes (up to three freshes of 10 ML/day for three days during March to April)

  • Increase the water depth, to maintain and support the growth of in-stream aquatic vegetation
  • Expand riffle/run areas to provide waterbug habitat
  • Top up pools to refresh water quality (particularly oxygen levels) and enhance connectivity between pools for fish and platypus movement
Fish iconPlant iconWater drop iconPlatypus iconInsect icon

Engagement

Table 2 shows the partners and stakeholder organisations with which North Central CMA engaged when preparing their seasonal watering proposals.

Seasonal watering proposals are informed by longer-term regional catchment strategies, regional waterway strategies, environmental flow studies, water management plans and other studies. These incorporate a range of environmental, cultural, social and economic perspectives and longerterm integrated catchment and waterway management objectives. For further details, refer to the North Central Regional Catchment Strategy and North Central  Waterway Strategy.

Table 2 Partners and stakeholders engaged in developing the Loddon system seasonal watering proposal

Partner and stakeholder engagement
  • Goulburn- Murray Water
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (land manager)
  • Individual landholders
  • Central Highlands Water

Page last updated: 24/07/20