Flows aim to help Goulburn River vegetation and banks recover

Wednesday 18 September, 2019
Water for the environment is being delivered along the lower Goulburn River to encourage seed and sediment distributed on the river’s lower and mid-banks during the July environmental flow to grow and spread.

“This year’s environmental flows are more important than ever for restoring river bank health,” Goulburn Broken CMA CEO Chris Norman said. “Vegetation provides valuable habitat for native fish, water bugs and other wildlife to feed, breed and shelter, which will be particularly important with forecasts of another warm, dry year. Encouraging plant growth will also go some way towards reducing the impact of two years of high summer flows - due to water being traded downstream - by helping stabilise the banks.”

Water for the environment released from Goulburn Weir this week will gradually increase to about 8000 ML/day by September 26 and then reduce back to current levels (about 900 ML/day) by October 19. This is well below minor flood level. The flows will be similar to the flows that would have occurred at this time of the year before dams, weirs and channels were built. The environmental flow has been designed so it recedes very slowly, which is better for the river’s banks. If there is heavy rain the flow may be reduced.

Mr Norman also welcomed Water Minister Lisa Neville’s recent commitment to variable summer flows in the Goulburn for the 2019/20 irrigation season.

“The community welcomes the commitment to variable summer flows as it will reduce the likelihood of ongoing bank erosion and loss of vegetation,” Mr Norman said. “It’s important that we continue to focus on bank health and water quality so the improvements in vegetation and threatened fish numbers we’ve seen in response to spring environmental flows delivered over the past decade are not lost. Good water quality reduces the cost of treating water for use by communities and is better for stock and crops, too.”

The environmental flow will take about a week to reach the Murray River. It will coincide with the coordinated release of water for the environment from Lake Hume along the Murray River. The combined flows will benefit the full length of the river, including watering wetland refuges at Gunbower and Koondrook-Pericoota, and provide cultural, community and recreational benefits.                                                                                                   

The amount and mix of Victorian, The Living Murray and Commonwealth water for the environment used in the Goulburn River will depend on downstream demand and run-off from tributaries after rain.

Environmental flows are planned by the Goulburn Broken CMA in consultation with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder. The delivery is managed by Goulburn-Murray Water in line with the VEWH’s Seasonal Watering Plan 2019-20. Timing of the environmental flows take into consideration delivery orders by irrigators and other water users and feedback from the community via the Goulburn Broken CMA’s environmental water advisory groups.

Providing water for the environment is only one way of protecting and improving rivers and wetlands. Fencing and revegetation, erosion control, pest control, returning logs to rivers (re-snagging) for fish and bug habitat, and installation of fishways to allow fish to pass through dams and weirs also help. Find out more about these activities at www.gbcma.vic.gov.au