Spring environmental flow good for water quality, fish and plants

Communities, Traditional Owners, farmers and wildlife will all benefit from an environmental flow along the Goulburn River between Goulburn Weir and the Murray River due to be delivered from mid-September.
Monday 11 September, 2017

“As much of the rain and run-off into the Goulburn River is now captured in the dams and used to supply towns, industry and farms, the amount of water flowing down the river in spring has reduced,” Goulburn Broken CMA Environmental Water Manager Simon Casanelia said.

“It also means the river flows higher and faster in the hotter months of the year when communities require more water, which is the opposite of what would happen if there were no dams and weirs.

 “These changes have affected the health and survival of native plants and animals, so we’re giving nature a helping hand and delivering water for the environment at this time of the year to mimic more natural flow conditions.”

Water for the increased flow, peaking at 8,500ML/day, is due to be released from Goulburn Weir from September 16. This water will be made up from releases from Eildon Dam that will start around September 13 as well as inflows from tributaries including the Rubicon, Acheron and Yea rivers.

The increased flows from Goulburn Weir will take about four days to reach McCoy’s Bridge near the Murray River.

The river will gradually rise to about 4m at Murchison, 5.3m at Shepparton and 5m at McCoy’s Bridge before slowly returning to current levels (~0.8m at Murchison, ~2.8m at Shepparton and ~1.5m at McCoys Bridge) by mid-October.

The increase in river flow and height will be well below minor flood level (9m at Murchison and 9.5m at Shepparton).

Mr Casanelia said the environmental flow would help bank-stabilising plant growth on the lower banks of the lower Goulburn River and improve water quality and provide food and shelter for waterbugs and native fish.

“Improved water quality will help crayfish, shrimps, water bugs and native fish continue to recover after the naturally occurring blackwater event that happened earlier this year after a summer storm,” he said.

“Irrigators appreciate better water quality too and of course, as the weather warms up, more people will be out and about by the river canoeing, fishing, bushwalking and birdwatching.”

Goulburn Broken CMA Environmental Water Indigenous Facilitator Des Morgan said environmental flows sustained healthy Country for Indigenous people who had a continuing connection to rivers.

“As well as this water re-generating native plant and fish species that have cultural importance to us, it’s important we look after it while it’s on our Country: that’s our responsibility to the people and the land further down the river,” Mr Morgan said.  

Environmental flows are planned by the Goulburn Broken CMA in consultation with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and managed by Goulburn-Murray Water in line with the Victorian Environmental Water Holder’s Seasonal Watering Plan 2016-17. 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.

Environment flows are only one of many 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. Find out more about these activities at www.gbcma.vic.gov.au