Page 23 - VEWH Seasonal Watering Plan 2020-21
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1.3.2 When does the Victorian Environmental Water Holder commit and authorise the use of water for the environment?
The VEWH aims to commit as much water as is sensibly possible, as early as possible, to provide waterway managers with certainty to proceed with the planned environmental watering actions.
The VEWH (like other environmental water holders) can commit its water at any point before or during the water year. The VEWH commits water via seasonal watering statements, which authorise waterway managers to release water for the environment. The VEWH publishes seasonal watering statements on its website at vewh.vic.gov.au.
The VEWH can make a seasonal watering statement at any time of the year. Depending on the nature of the system and the entitlement being used, it may make one or multiple statements for a system during the water year. Before issuing a seasonal watering statement, the VEWH must be sure the required delivery arrangements (including any risk management measures) are in place and any costs it must meet are acceptable.
Where many environmental watering actions across different systems require access to the same environmental or bulk entitlement, decisions to commit water may require more thorough consideration. This may require prioritisation of one river or wetland over another or prioritisation of one
flow component over another. Subsection 1.3.3 has further information about how these decisions are made.
In some instances, the VEWH may commit water very close to the anticipated date of release. This may be necessary because demand for the water arises at short notice, due to environmental, operational or weather conditions. For example, a colonial waterbird nesting event in Barmah Forest may trigger a need for water for the environment
to maintain shallow flooding long enough for the birds to fledge.
There may also be instances where planned environmental flows are not delivered to a site. For example, an ecological trigger or seasonal conditions could nullify the potential benefit of the planned delivery, or a lack of catchment inflows may mean there is not enough water for the planned watering action.
The CEWH and the Southern Connected Basin Environmental Watering Committee (for The Living Murray program) commit water for use in Victoria with similar logic to that explained above. The VEWH then formally authorises the use of that water through seasonal watering statements.
Can environmental water holders and waterway managers change their minds after a seasonal watering statement has been issued?
The VEWH may withdraw a seasonal watering statement at any point during the year, in consultation with the waterway manager and storage manager for that river or wetland system. It might do so, for example, to address emerging risks or changes in operating conditions or water availability.
Similarly, a waterway manager or storage manager may decide, in consultation with the VEWH, not to proceed
with an environmental watering action after a seasonal watering statement has been issued. This could be due to environmental triggers indicating the water was no longer required, resourcing constraints or new information that the potential environmental or public risk of watering is too high.
1.3.3 How does the Victorian Environmental Water Holder prioritise different watering actions when there is not enough water for the environment available?
The VEWH works with its program partners to make decisions about where its available water the environment (and funding) are used, carried over or traded, to get maximum benefit for the state’s waterways — our rivers, wetlands, estuaries and floodplains — and the wildlife that depend on them.
In implementing this program, it is important to recognise the dynamic nature of the environmental watering program. Seasonal conditions can vary considerably between years, which affects both the requirements of particular sites for water for the environment (the demand) and the availability of water for the environment (the supply).
A shortfall in supply might arise because of:
• significant, high-value demands for water for the environment
• drought or low water availability.
To meet a shortfall, the VEWH may look to use tools such as carryover and trade (as explained in subsection 1.4.2). If there is still a shortfall of water, the VEWH, in collaboration with waterway managers and other water holders if relevant, must prioritise between environmental watering actions.
1.3 Implementing the seasonal watering plan
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