News

Health boost for rivers

By Country News

Environmental water will flow through 2000km of river systems from this month.

The flows, which are designed to improve water health, will be managed through the Barmah-Millewa Forest before the water flows downstream to the Lower Lakes and Coorong.

Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder Jody Swirepik said the actual volume of water used for the flow would depend on a range of factors including natural flow events and other operational deliveries.

‘‘In the Murray Valley, environmental water holders collectively carried over about 400Gl of water from 2018-19,’’ Ms Swirepik said.

‘‘This water is available to support the southern spring flow. However, the actual volume of water required may be much less.

‘‘These environmental flows will benefit over 2000km of river throughout winter and spring.’’

Through implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, the CEWH has on average about 2000Gl of water available each year for the environment.

‘‘Having water set aside for healthy working rivers is fundamental to the basin plan,’’ Ms Swirepik said.

‘‘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.’’

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 food for animals and fish, support native fish spawning and water a few small wetland areas.

‘‘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,’’ Ms Swirepik said.

Murray-Darling Basin Authority 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.

Public information drop-in sessions will be held in river communities as the flows progress.

■More information on the southern spring flow and for information on upcoming public information sessions, visit: www.environment.gov.au/water/cewo