The GB CMA is in the process of developing environmental water requirements for a number of priority rivers and streams in the Catchment.
The project will recommend the flows required to achieve a 'healthy ecosystem', as defined in the Victorian River Health Strategy.
The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) will use the results of the project in the development of the Northern Regional Sustainable Water Strategy. This is an Our Water Our Future initiative that will look at re-balancing water supply demand needs and river health requirements, considering the range of water supply options available.
What is an environmental flows study?
The flow of water is what defines a river or creek. Many rivers and creeks in Australia, including those within the Goulburn Broken catchment have highly variable flow. This means that they can have very low flows, through to large floods.
Through the settlement of land and the development of agriculture and urbanisation we have had significant impacts on the catchment. We have changed the nature of the landscape through the removal of vegetation and we have taken water from the rivers and creeks to meet the demands for human consumption, agriculture and industry.
The environmental flow study aims to understand the nature of the rivers and creeks in the catchment and to understand natural flow regimes. Additionally, the studies aim to identify environmental values present (including fish, vegetation, good water quality and fauna) and what flow regime they require to maintain themselves.
How is an environmental flows study organised?
An Expert Panel of independent scientists that has been employed for this project will ultimately make the environmental flow recommendations. The Expert Panel, will provide the technical expertise to the project.
An Advisory Group has been established to help the river's key stakeholders be involved in the study. The Advisory Group is comprised of a cross section of community interests and will provide local knowledge to compliment the technical aspects.
A Steering Committee comprised of GBCMA, DSE, Goulburn Murray Rural Water Authority, and Goulburn Valley Water representatives oversees the project to ensure that it meets its deadlines and to make day-to-day project management decisions. The community is involved through a Community Reference Committee that has been established to provide essential local knowledge to the project.
Four priority waterways have been identified where flow determination studies and/or Stream Flow Management Plans are to be developed, viz:
- Seven Creeks
- Upper Broken Creek
- Yea River
- King Parrot Creek
Furthermore, a range of environmental flow evaluation projects are being undertaken on a broad range of wetland systems and other waterways, such as the Goulburn and Broken rivers.
Monitoring environmental flows
Monitoring the effects of environmental flows will provide an opportunity to investigate the ecosystem responses to changes in the flow regime and provide new information that can support future decision-making within an adaptive management cycle.
The CRC Freshwater Ecology and CRC Catchment Hydrology were engaged by the Department of Sustainability and Environment to develop an overarching Victorian (Statewide) framework for monitoring ecosystem response to environmental flow releases.
Each CMA will develop a targeted monitoring and assessment plan for waterways and wetlands within their respective catchments.
Plans to be developed in the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority region include:
- Goulburn River
- Broken River
For more information contact the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority, Shepparton, on phone (03) 5820 1100.
Stream Flow Management Plans
Streamflow Management Plans (SFMPs) aim to provide a balanced and sustainable sharing of streamflows between all water users in unregulated catchments. SFMPs are now recognised as Management Plans under the Water Act 1989 (as amended 2002) and are legally binding on individual water users and authorities.
SFMPs apply to unregulated streams. These are catchments where the flow in streams is not "regulated" by controlled releases from publicly owned dams to supply water to downstream users. In these systems flow is simply run of the river generated from rainfall runoff in the catchment.
Emphasis of the plans is on water sharing between consumptive users and the environment during periods of flow stress.
SFMPs develop rules for how entitlements within the stream catchment are to be managed to meet the objectives for the stream developed by a community based consultative committee.
Why develop SFMPs?
Ever increasing demands for water and the finite limit of how much water is available mean there is a need to:
- Protect the long term sustainability of the riverine environment by reaching a balance between environmental requirements and the consumptive users of water.
- Clarify diverters' rights to water, including the reliability of supply, licence conditions, rostering, trading and diversion limits.
- Provide a framework of rules with which to operate the stream to meet agreed management objectives.
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