Page 159 - VEWH Seasonal Watering Plan 2020-21
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Traditional Owner cultural values and uses
The waterways within the Wimmera are important to the Wotjobaluk people and heritage values exist throughout
the landscape. Native Title is held along much of the lower Wimmera River, reinforcing the cultural significance of these values. In planning for environmental flows in the Wimmera River, Barengi Gadjin Land Council and Wimmera CMA have considered these values as well as contemporary cultural events such as the Wotjobaluk festival.
Waterway managers are seeking opportunities to increase the involvement of Traditional Owners in environmental water planning and management. Where Traditional Owners are more deeply involved in the planning and/or delivery of environmental flows for a particular site, their contribution is acknowledged in Table 4.3.1 with an icon.
In the Wimmera system, Wimmera CMA and Barengi Gadjin Land Council, on behalf of the Wotjobaluk people, work in partnership to provide a variety of Aboriginal environmental outcomes at Ranch Billabong. The delivery of environmental water at Ranch Billabong, aims to return a more natural flooding regime, restore indigenous plant and animal habitats, control selected weed species and improve the site’s amenity and suitability for gatherings and events, such as earth oven and bark canoe recreations.
Social, recreational and economic values and uses
In planning the potential watering actions in Table 4.3.1, Wimmera CMA considered how environmental flows could support values and uses including:
• water-based recreation (such as fishing, rowing, water skiing and paddle boating)
• riverside recreation and amenity (such as running and walking)
• community events and tourism (such as fishing competitions at Dimboola, Jeparit and Horsham; Dimboola [rowing] Regatta; Kannamaroo Festival at Horsham, Wimmera River Duck Race; Peter Taylor Memorial Barefoot Water Ski Tournament and Night Jump at Dimboola; and general visitation).
If the timing or management of planned environmental flows may be modified to align with a community benefit, this is acknowledged in Table 4.3.1 with an icon.
Water for the environment can be used to temporarily raise water levels in the Horsham and Dimboola weir pools to improve conditions for community events including fishing competitions and water-skiing and rowing events. Following the events, the environmental water is released, to continue to improve ecological objectives downstream.
Recent conditions
The Wimmera region has had below-average rainfall and above-average temperatures for most of the last three years. Near-average rainfall in winter 2019 caused the upper Wimmera River (measured at Glenorchy) to flow for the first time in more than a year, and it contributed notable inflows into the Mount William Creek catchment including Lake Lonsdale. Much of spring and the first months of summer were drier than average, which meant inflows to storages across the Wimmera-Mallee headworks system were well below average for the 2019–20 water year, but the second half of summer and autumn were slightly wetter than average and mild temperatures limited evaporation losses. The Wimmera-Glenelg environmental entitlement received 42 percent allocation in 2019–20. The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) did not receive any allocation in the Wimmera system for the third year in a row. CEWH water that was allocated in 2016–17 was carried over and used to support environmental outcomes in the Wimmera River and in Mount William Creek in 2018–19 and 2019–20.
Natural flow during winter and early spring 2019 provided low flow and some freshes which met some of the minimum environmental flow requirements in the Wimmera River, MacKenzie River and Burnt Creek. Passing flows from
Lake Lonsdale were suspended in winter to conserve water for drier conditions predicted for spring and summer. The accumulated water was used to meet environmental flow requirements in the Wimmera River and in Mount William Creek in spring 2019.
Water for the environment was delivered from mid-October 2019 to June 2020, in line with very dry climate conditions to maintain low flow and small freshes in Wimmera River below Dimboola and to top up Ranch Billabong. Small volumes were also delivered to Mount William Creek, the MacKenzie River and upper Burnt Creek in line with drought conditions due to limited water availability in Lake Lonsdale and Lake Wartook. Environmental watering in summer
and autumn 2020 primarily aimed to maintain habitat for native fish, platypus and waterbugs and to protect water quality. Without significant rain in winter and spring 2020, water quality and habitat quality in the Wimmera system
will decline and there will be a greater reliance on water for the environment to protect critical refuges. There is less environmental water carried over from 2019–20 compared to the previous three years and under drought, very dry and dry seasonal conditions water availability in 2020–21 will be limited to only meeting the highest-priority demands (tier 1a) in the Wimmera system.
Scope of environmental watering
Table 4.3.1 describes the potential environmental watering actions in 2020–21, their functional watering objectives (that is, the intended physical or biological effect of the watering action) and the longer-term environmental objective(s) they support. Each environmental objective relies on one or more potential environmental watering actions and their associated physical or biological functions.
4.3 Wimmera system
  Watering planned and/or delivered in partnership with Traditional Owners to support Aboriginal cultural values and uses
  Watering planned to support angling activities
   Watering planned to support water sports activities (e.g. rowing, water skiing)
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