The Environmental Water Reserve
In today’s environment it is more difficult for rivers to function as healthy ecosystems and to recover from drought because water is extracted from them to sustain agriculture, towns and industry. This is why Victoria has set water aside specifically for the environment.
The Environmental Water Reserve (EWR) is the legal term used to describe the amount of water set aside to meet environmental benefits. It includes water provided through:
- statutory environmental water entitlements, such as a volume of water held in storage – these are the component of the EWR that can be actively managed
- water set aside for the environment as obligations on consumptive water entitlements held by urban and rural water corporations – these are usually called ‘passing flows’ that must be released from storages or provided at a particular point of a river
- unregulated flows and spills from storages, usually created by heavy rainfall.
Waterway managers (that is, catchment management authorities and Melbourne Water) have a key role in managing the EWR. They work together with storage operators, water entitlement-holders and land-holders to maximise the environmental benefits from the EWR and integrate it with other waterway management works and measures.
The amount of water in the EWR can sometimes be insufficient to meet all of the requirements of a river, floodplain, wetland or estuary. In some instances, it has been possible for the Government to invest in projects to recover additional water for the environment. These have resulted in the creation of environmental water entitlements. It is this part of the EWR in which the VEWH has a role – the Water Holdings.
See the Water Holdings section for a list of entitlements currently held by the VEWH.
Victorian river and wetland sites may also be allocated water from other sources, including the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, through the Living Murray program, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) and through donations from individuals, community groups and other organisations.
It is the role of the VEWH to coordinate with other holders of environmental water entitlements to maximise the benefits to Victorian waterways.