The Wimmera River rises in the Pyrenees Range near Elmhurst and flows through Horsham, Dimboola and Jeparit before terminating at Lake Hindmarsh, which is Victoria’s largest freshwater lake and the first of a series of terminal lakes. The Wimmera River receives flows from several regulated tributaries including the MacKenzie River and the Mount William and Burnt creeks. These tributaries, Bungalally Creek and the Wimmera River below Mount William Creek can receive environmental flows. In exceptionally wet periods, Lake Hindmarsh may overflow into Outlet Creek and on to Lake Albacutya, which is an internationally recognised Ramsar-listed wetland. There are numerous wetlands beyond Lake Albacutya as well, which have not filled with water for decades.
Water in the Wimmera system is stored in three on-stream reservoirs (Lake Wartook on the MacKenzie River, Lake Lonsdale on Mount William Creek and Lake Bellfield on Fyans Creek), and in several off-stream storages (Taylors Lake, Lake Fyans and Toolondo Reservoir). A channel system enables water to be moved between several storages. Water can also be transferred from Rocklands Reservoir in the Glenelg system to the Wimmera system via the Rocklands-Toolondo Channel and from Moora Moora Reservoir via the Moora Channel. The connected storages and channels are collectively called the Wimmera-Mallee system headworks, and harvested water is used for towns and stock and domestic supply throughout the Wimmera catchment and parts of the Avoca, Hopkins, Loddon, Glenelg and Mallee catchments. Passing flows are provided to the Wimmera River and to lower Mount William and Fyans creeks.
Priority reaches in the Wimmera system that can receive water for the environment are Wimmera River reaches 3 and 4, MacKenzie River reaches 2 and 3, upper and lower Mount William Creek, upper and lower Burnt Creek and Bungalally Creek.
Yarriambiack Creek is a distributary of the upper Wimmera River that would have naturally received some flows during high-flow events. Modifications to the Yarriambiack Creek offtake increase flow rates in Yarriambiack Creek compared to what would have naturally happened, but they reduce the flow rates to the high-priority reaches of the Wimmera River. During very dry years, flows entering Yarriambiack Creek may be blocked to ensure watering objectives in the Wimmera River are not compromised.
Two wetlands in the Wimmera system have been included in the environmental watering program in recent years.
Dock Lake, one of the Wimmera’s large terminal lakes near Horsham, would have naturally filled when the nearby Green Lake filled and overflowed, due to high flow in small creeks that flow from the northern edge of the Grampians. In the 1930s, Dock Lake was modified to allow it to be used as a water storage for irrigation supply in the Wimmera-Mallee system. Dock Lake was removed from the supply system after the completion of the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline in 2010. In late 2016, flooding in the catchment partially filled Dock Lake when Green Lake filled and overflowed. Managed water deliveries can now only be delivered through a small channel from Green Lake, when there is enough water in Green Lake to gravity-feed Dock Lake.
Ranch Billabong, near Dimboola, is located on land managed by Barengi Gadjin Land Council Aboriginal Corporation. The billabong system was disconnected from the Wimmera River by changes to a road that traverses land between the river and the billabong. The roadworks and river regulation in the Wimmera River have significantly altered the natural water regime of Ranch Billabong. Restoring habitat for native animal and plant communities at Ranch Billabong is an important outcome for the environment, Traditional Owners and their Nations.