News

Southern spring flow throws lifeline to Murray

By Corowa Free Press

With dry conditions continuing across the Basin, environmental water managers are doing what they can to help the Murray River survive. 

Water for the environment will be used in River Murray during winter and spring to ensure our native fish have the water they depend on every year to feed and breed.  

The river flows will be carefully managed through some of the creeks in the Barmah-Millewa Forest then flow to further downstream in the River Murray, and to the Lower Lakes and Coorong. In spring, River Murray flows will coincide with environmental flows from the Goulburn River, enhancing flows in the Lower Murray. 

Through implementation of the Basin Plan, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder has on average around 2000 gigalitres of water available each year for the environment and it is important to let this water do its job. 

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH), Jody Swirepik, said we are providing this water so our precious native fish, animals and plants have the best chance to survive and breed as we all wait for rain. 

“Having water set aside for healthy working rivers is fundamental to the Basin Plan. Without this safety-net our rivers would quickly decline. We could see the lower Murray suffer like the lower Darling did. Without these flows, the lower Murray could be approaching critical drought emergency levels by the end of summer. 

“These releases of fresh water are the heartbeat of the river – they keep our plants and animals healthy and improve water quality. Without them, the river’s lifeblood stops flowing,” Ms Swirepik said. 

The first flows will start in July and prime the system, making sure fish, animals and plants are in good condition. The second flows in September will provide much needed food for animals and fish, support native fish spawning and water a few small wetland areas, particularly those that missed out last year. 

Ms Swirepik recognised how hard the current conditions are for farmers and the environment.  

“During regular visits across drought ravaged parts of the Basin, I have experienced the distress present in local communities, First Nations peoples, farming families, and the natural environment. 

“Our experience of using water for the environment is that it delivers benefits for communities and economies as well as the environment, through improved water quality and amenity. It is important we stay the course and keep delivering the limited water we have.” Ms Swirepik said. 

MDBA Chief Executive, Phillip Glyde, said the watering event was an example of the Basin Plan at work. 

“The Basin Plan recognised historically governments allocated too much water to consumptive uses and we needed to restore the balance by recovering water for the environment so it could receive its fair share,” Mr Glyde said. 

“We’re now using that water as intended—to support our river health as the drought continues to take its toll on farmers, communities and the environment.” 

The environmental flows are a joint action by the CEWH, Victorian Environmental Water Holder, NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and South Australian Government with the MDBA as manager of The Living Murray. The flows are being delivered in close collaboration with river operators and the community to ensure they are as efficient as possible. 

“We will monitor the flows along the river’s 2000km length to help us better understand the benefits for water quality and native fish. 

“We will be out and about talking with communities in the mid and lower Murray about the planned events in the coming weeks,” Ms Swirepik said. 

More information on the Southern Spring Flow is available on the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office website: http://www.environment.gov.au/water/cewo/catchment/southern-springflow-2019.