Barmah water delivery benefits fish, plants and birds

Moira grass (Pseudoraphis spinescens) plains in the Barmah Forest are benefiting from environmental water delivered between July and October.

Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (CMA) The Living Murray Project Officer Lisa Duncan said
environmental flows had provided a much-needed boost to the Moira grass plains, which form an important
part of the ecological character of the Barmah Forest. These flows mimicked the natural expected spring flow as
well as piggybacking on high water deliveries for communities and agriculture at this time of the year.

“Barmah Forest has the most extensive areas of Moira grass plains in Victoria and is an important breeding
ground for ibis, ducks, cormorants, herons, spoonbills, crakes and rails,” Ms Duncan said.

“Moira grass was hit hard during the millennium drought, declining to as little as five per cent of its former
mapped area over the past 70 years, due to a range of reasons, including grazing pressure from feral animals.

“It can grow rapidly in the right conditions, but it needs deep and prolonged flooding to reach maximum growth
and to reach the flowering stage of its lifecycle. Although there has been a good response this year from the
three months we were watering, future water deliveries, at the right time of the year, will be vital for improving
its long-term health and resilience.”

About 20 per cent of the environmental water delivered across the Barmah Forest floodplain will remain in
wetlands, while the rest will flow back into the River Murray. The water returning to the Murray from the
floodplain is rich in nutrients and provides the building blocks for the river’s food chain, from small waterbugs
right up to large bodied fish such as Murray cod and golden perch.

Barmah Forest, together with the adjoining Millewa Forest in New South Wales, form the largest river red gum
forest in the world, attracting thousands of visitors each year who camp, fish, swim and canoe.

The forest’s complex ecology is underpinned by the Murray River’s flooding regime, which is now being
mimicked with Commonwealth and Victorian environmental water deliveries.

Ongoing monitoring at Barmah will examine how the recent water delivery affects water quality; bird, fish, frog
and waterbug breeding and numbers; and other vegetation.

“Monitoring helps us understand the effectiveness of the environmental flows and ‘tweak’ future timing and
flows to get the best outcomes,” Ms Duncan said.

Environmental water is water specifically delivered to improve or maintain the health of rivers, floodplains and wetlands and the plants and animals that depend on them. Of the total amount of water entitlements stored in dams (such as Hume and Eildon), 20 per cent is used for the environment, 20 per cent for urban and industry and 60 per cent for irrigation.

The spring environmental water delivery used water owned by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and The Living Murray, in collaboration with the Victorian Environmental Water Holder.

The Living Murray is a joint initiative funded by the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian, Australian Capital Territory and Commonwealth governments, coordinated by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority

GB CMAs Keith Ward Measuring Moira Grass