Enviro flows to boost Yarra River’s health
16/03/2012The Yarra River is this week receiving the first flows of its reinstated environmental water entitlement, helping improve the health of one of Melbourne’s natural icons.
The week-long release of up to 3 billion litres from Upper Yarra Reservoir marks the first time the Yarra has received water above minimum flow since the entitlement was reinstated in October last year.
The Yarra has long supplied the majority of Melbourne’s drinking water, and the city’s reliance on the river increased during the drought, which meant less water for the environment.
The release has been approved by the Victorian Environmental Water Holder as the new independent statutory body for holding and managing Victoria’s environmental water entitlements.
Waterways General Manager, Chris Chesterfield, said the flows would help address the impact that damming the Yarra, to create Upper Yarra Reservoir, had on the health of the waterway and the plants and animals that live there.
“The dam has altered the natural flow of the Yarra, increasing the amount of soil and other loose vegetation on the river bed, which reduces habitat and food availability for significant native animals such as river blackfish and the Yarra spiny crayfish,” said Mr Chesterfield.
“The flows are being used strategically to help flush out the upper reaches of the river, as would naturally be the case before the dam was built.
“It may seem odd to some, but the ideal time to make the release is in the wetter months of spring when there’s a greater chance of distributing the material along the length of the Yarra and mimicking the natural processes.
“Careful river watchers may notice the Yarra slightly higher than it would otherwise be at this time, but most of the benefits will be under the surface. The 3 billion litres in flows represents a fraction of what is harvested into Upper Yarra Reservoir each year, but they’re a very important part of improving the Yarra’s health.
“Just as restrictions were introduced in Melbourne to help save water, the Yarra did it very tough throughout the drought, so it’s only right that it shares the benefits of an improved outlook for our water storages.
“Higher rainfall over the past two years has increased flows in the Yarra but it will take years of higher flows for these ecosystems to properly recover,” he added.
Further details about the annual plan for environmental watering in the Yarra system can be found in the VEWH Seasonal Watering Plan 2011-12.
To view the media release visit Melbourne Water.