A new publication Reflections: Water for the environment in Victoria demonstrates how vital Victoria's state-wide environmental watering program is for the state's rivers and wetlands, especially as the state continues to face weather extremes.
Reflections is a snapshot of the 2016-17 year where water for the environment played an important part in providing a refuge for vulnerable aquatic plant and animal species that are facing increased pressure from extreme weather and a booming population.
Co-executive Officer at the Victorian Environmental Water Holder, Trent Wallis, says that Victoria's climate has been following a drying and warming trend for several decades, with modelling forecasting that stream flows could reduce by around 50 percent in some Victorian catchments by 2065.
"Even in a wet year, like we had in 2016-17, most of Victoria's rivers and wetlands are often in drought compared to their natural condition due to water being diverted for human use," says Trent.
"Up to half of the water that would have naturally flowed in these waterways is removed each year for farms, homes and industry. Providing water for the environment was established to help ease some of the impacts of this high level of water extraction."
In 2016-17, 839,000 megalitres of water was provided to Victoria's vulnerable and threatened plants and animals, with 76 river reaches and 51 wetlands benefitting from a 'drink' of environmental water.
Victorian Environmental Water Holder Chairperson Denis Flett says Victoria is seeing the benefits from six years of the VEWH's seasonal environmental water program.
"The stories in Reflections show the many benefits of providing water for the environment – fish species returning to rivers in which they were previously extinct, birds flocking to watered wetlands, trees thriving, river banks stabilising and the landscape coming to life."
Waterways are being restored in the heart of Victorian communities and providing social and economic opportunities – and a lot of fun!
"Anglers, kayakers and birdwatchers benefit, as does the whole community. We even had an environmental flow in the Glenelg River timed to coincide with the Johnny Mullagh Memorial Cup, an annual cricket competition celebrating the first Australian Test team, who were all Aboriginal men from the area," says Denis.
Reflections: Water for the environment in Victoria shows how environmental flows are producing real outcomes for waterway plants and animals and the community:
- Environmental flows coordinated across hundreds of kilometres, from the River Murray into Victorian waterways, enticed native fish to breed.
- The banks of the Goulburn River avoided flood collapse, in part due to water for the environment.
- An environmental flow helped the Goulburn River bounce back from a natural blackwater event.
- The Campaspe River had a boost in the numbers of silver perch for the first time in ten years.
- Numbers of juvenile Murray cod were at their highest recorded levels in the Campaspe River.
- More frogs and birds and fewer weeds for Yering Backswamp and the Banyule Billabong on the Yarra River.
- Water for the environment helped trigger the largest breeding event of black swans in a decade at Sale Common.
- Tupong (a type of native fish) were reported for the first time in more than 60 years in upstream areas of the Glenelg River and monitoring found some of the highest numbers of tupong in the Thomson River in 13 years.
- Platypus and native fish in the Wimmera River continued to recover.
- The central Murray wetlands became a waterbird haven with the return of rare Australasian bitterns as well as magpie geese thought to be extinct in the region.
The water for the environment program wouldn't work without the support of catchment management authorities and Melbourne Water, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and Office, the Living Murray program, land managers and storage managers, as well as community members who become involved each year.
More stories on the benefits of water for the environment in Victoria are available in
Reflections: Water for the Environment in in Victoria 2016-17.
Watch the Reflections launch video below: