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Water for the environment and non-government agencies
In 2007, the Murray–Darling Wetlands Working Group (MDWWG) and the Nature Conservancy — both non- government organisations — partnered to own and manage the Environmental Water Trust. To date, the MDWWG has been very active in wetland protection and management
in New South Wales through partnerships with state and federal governments. Since 2017–18, the MDWWG has partnered with some catchment management authorities in northern Victoria to deliver water for the environment to wetlands on private land. These deliveries are outside the Victorian Water Holdings and are therefore not covered by this seasonal watering plan.
For more information about the MDWWG and the Environmental Water Trust, see and
1.4.2 What options are available to effectively and efficiently manage water for the environment?
Other water sources
Water for the environment is not the only type of water that can support river, wetland and floodplain health. Waterway managers and environmental water holders in consultation with storage managers consider the potential for environmental watering objectives to be met by other sources of water. The timing of environmental releases can be coordinated with other sources of water to achieve greater benefits than an environmental release alone could achieve. Other sources of water can include:
• system operating water including passing flows, which maintains a minimum flow for operational and/or environmental purposes in many rivers, to which water for the environment can be added
• heavy rainfall resulting in unregulated flows, which can naturally meet an environmental objective, so water available under environmental water entitlements is not needed or could be added to extend a natural flow
• alterations to the timing and route of delivery of consumptive water, which can achieve environmental objectives without detriment to consumptive water users: water for the environment is sometimes used to cover any additional losses associated with the altered delivery of consumptive water.
These types of water are considered in the development and implementation of the seasonal watering plan, to ensure effective system operations and efficient use of water for the environment, and to achieve the greatest benefit to the environment.
Return flows
In some systems, water for the environment delivered through upstream sites can be used again downstream. This helps to ensure water for the environment is
used efficiently and effectively, to achieve the greatest environmental benefits.
This reuse policy (known as return flows) is available in many systems across northern Victoria. It makes use of water for the environment more efficient, and it helps reduce the volume of water that needs to be recovered for the environment from consumptive water users.
The VEWH’s access to return flows is enabled through rules in its environmental water entitlements. Reuse of return flows is also available to the CEWH and The Living Murray program, when the VEWH delivers water on their behalf.
Where possible, return flows are reused to provide benefits at Victorian environmental sites. If not needed in Victoria, VEWH, Living Murray and CEWH return flows will continue to flow across the border to South Australia where they will be used to provide environmental benefits at sites such as the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth area.
Some entitlements allow the VEWH to carry over unused water to the following water year. This means that water allocated in one year can be kept in storages for use in the following year, subject to certain conditions.
Carryover provides flexibility and enables water for the environment to be delivered when it is of the greatest value to the environment. For example, carryover can help ensure environmental water holders can meet high winter and spring demands when there is a risk there will be little water available under entitlements at the beginning of the water year.
Carryover can also be used to set water aside to maintain key refuge areas and avoid catastrophic events in drought periods.
Water trading
Water trading allows the VEWH to smooth out some of the variability in water availability across systems and years. Under certain circumstances, it can enable the VEWH to move water to the systems where it is most needed. The VEWH can trade water allocated to its entitlements by:
• administrative water transfers between the VEWH’s entitlements
• administrative water transfers with other water holders
• purchasing water allocation
• selling water allocation.
Administrative water transfers are the most common trades the VEWH undertakes. These occur between the VEWH’s entitlements (or accounts) to move water to where it is most needed. Other environmental water holders also transfer their water to the VEWH for delivery in Victoria. These types of water trades are often referred to as administrative water transfers, as there is no financial consideration associated with the trade.
The VEWH can also buy or sell water allocation where it is in line with its statutory objectives: essentially, if it optimises environmental outcomes in Victorian waterways.
1.4 Managing available water for the environment
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