Lower Goulburn River environmental flows start next month

Friday 21 June, 2019
Water for the environment is due to be delivered downstream of Goulburn Weir from early July.

For the past few years the Goulburn Broken CMA has worked with its partners to deliver water for the environment in early winter to protect and improve the health of the lower Goulburn River.

Releases of water for the environment are designed to provide a small amount of the natural flows that would have occurred during this time of year before the river was dammed and regulated.

When conditions allow, these annual winter environmental flows generally peak around 9000ML/day and last for five or six weeks.

This year the flow is planned to peak at around 9500ML/day at Murchison mid-July before slowly dropping back to the current level (about 1000ML/day) in early August.

 “The timing and size of this winter flow is critical for depositing the seed-rich sediment on the banks that is needed for bank-stabilising plants to grow and spread in spring – it's a bit like tilling, seeding and watering your paddock all at once,” Goulburn Broken CMA CEO Chris Norman said.

“Given the concerns we, and the community, have about the effects on the banks of the river running high during the first five months of this year due to record amounts of water being transferred from the Goulburn to the Murray, this winter’s environmental flow is more important than ever for restoring river bank health.

“Encouraging plant growth will go some way towards reducing the impact of those high unseasonal flows. This vegetation will also provide valuable habitat for native fish, water bugs and other wildlife to feed, breed and shelter, particularly if conditions remain dry.”

This year’s winter 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 or not go ahead at all. If conditions remain dry, this winter environmental flow may be one of the main environmental water deliveries for the lower Goulburn River for the year as environmental water entitlements are subject to the same allocation rules as other water entitlement holders.

The environmental flow will take about a week to reach the Murray River and will provide many recreational and cultural benefits as it flows down the river.

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. 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.

Environmental watering is only one way of protecting and improving rivers and wetlands. Fencing and revegetation, erosion control, pest control, returning logs to rivers for fish and bug habitat, and installation of fishways to allow fish to pass through dams and weirs also help.