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The natural watering regimes of wetlands throughout the broader Loddon system have been substantially modified by the construction of levees and channels across the floodplain and by the construction and operation of reservoirs and weirs along the Loddon River. Water is delivered to the Boort wetlands through Loddon Valley Irrigation Area infrastructure.

The availability of water for the environment for the Boort wetlands is closely linked to water available for the Loddon River system. The ability to deliver water for the environment to the wetlands is sometimes limited by channel capacity constraints. The VEWH and North Central CMA work with the storage manager (Goulburn-Murray Water) to best meet environmental objectives within capacity constraints.

Traditional Owners
Storage manager
Environmental water holder

Environmental watering objectives in the Boort wetlands

icon-objectives-fish
Increase the population of large and small-bodied fish species
Frog icon
Increase the diversity and population of native frogs, including by enhancing breeding opportunities
aintain the population of freshwater turtles, in particular Murray River turtles
Plant icon
Rehabilitate and increase the extent of emergent and aquatic vegetation (aquatic herblands, tall marsh), intermittent swampy woodland and riverine chenopod woodland

Maintain the health and restore the distribution of river red gums and associated understorey species

Maintain the extent and restore the health of black box vegetation on the fringes of the wetlands
bird icon
Support a high diversity of wetland birds by enhancing feeding and breeding conditions

Environmental values

The Boort wetlands provide habitat for a range of plant and animal species. At Lake Yando, 12 rare plant species have been recorded, including the jerry-jerry and water nymph. Bird species recorded at Lake Boort, Lake Leaghur and Lake Meran include the white-bellied sea eagle, Latham’s snipe and eastern great egret. Little Lake Meran is a swampy woodland with black box trees on the highest wet margins and river red gums fringing the waterline.

Traditional Owner cultural values and uses

In planning for environmental flows in the Boort wetlands, North Central CMA has worked with Barapa Barapa and Wamba Wemba Traditional Owners and Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (trading as DJAARA) to identify opportunities to engage on environmental water planning and delivery, now and in the future.

The wetlands and surrounding land in the Boort region are rich in cultural heritage, with sites and artefacts of cultural practices present throughout the landscape. The rivers and floodplains are valued as food and fibre sources and contain many sites of significance (such as camp sites and meeting places). Environmental watering supports values such as native fish, waterbirds and turtles, and promotes the growth of culturally important plants that provide food, medicine and weaving materials. The presence of water itself can be a cultural value, as well as the quality of the water, as healthy water promotes a healthy Country.

The Dhelkunya Dja (Healing Country) Country Plan 2014-2034 describes their aspirations around the management of rivers and waterways and articulates Dja Dja Wurrung peoples’ support for the reinstatement of environmental flows as an overall objective for the management of water on Country.

Increasing the involvement of Traditional Owners in environmental water planning and management, and ultimately providing opportunities to progress towards self-determination within the environmental watering program, is a core commitment of the VEWH and its agency partners. This is reinforced by a range of legislation and policy commitments (for example the Water Act 1989, the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework, Water for Victoria (2016)) and, in some cases, agreements under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010. Where Traditional Owners are more deeply involved in the planning and/or delivery of environmental flows for a particular site, their contribution is acknowledged in Table 5.7.3 with an icon. The use of this icon is not intended to indicate that these activities are meeting all the needs of Traditional Owners but is incorporated in the spirit of valuing that contribution, and indicating progress towards this objective.

Traditional owners

Watering planned and/or delivered in partnership with Traditional Owners to support cultural values and uses

DJAARA is completing a Water For Country ‘Gatjin’ Strategy to set the vision, objectives and targets for cultural water on Country. Aboriginal Waterway Assessments (AWAs) planned to be undertaken in 2022-23 will feed into the Strategy. Through the Water For Country ‘Gatjin’ Strategy DJAARA will integrate data from completed AWAs into water planning processes to better influence how water is managed on Country (such as through the Seasonal Watering Plan process).

The North Central CMA is committed to working with DJAARA including their local family group Yung Balug, to enable the proposed watering at Lake Boort while managing cultural heritage, to the satisfaction of all partners. This includes the inundation of culturally significant plant communities.

In early 2022, Barapa Barapa and Wamba Wemba Traditional Owners went on a field visit to Lake Leaghur, Lake Meran and Little Lake Meran. The group discussed which Boort and central Murray wetlands to water in 2022-23, and supported the proposal to water most of the actively managed wetlands on their Country and to allow Lake Yando to go through a dry phase. The group also indicated a preference to water Little Lake Meran over Lake Leaghur (if water supply is an issue) as the fringing black box trees are looking stressed. The group indicated that they are very interested in undertaking Aboriginal Waterway Assessments (AWAs) at several of the Boort wetlands in the future – in both wet and dry phases.

Social, recreational and economic values and uses

In planning the potential environmental flows in Table 5.7.3, North Central CMA considered how environmental flows could support values and uses, including:

  • water-based recreation (such as fishing and water sports)
  • waterway recreation and amenity (such as birdwatching, camping and duck hunting)
  • community events and tourism (such as attracting locals and visitors for birdwatching and hunting)
  • socio-economic benefits (such as aesthetic benefits for landholders and water levels and quality for flood mitigation, nutrient treatment and carbon storage).

Recent conditions

Rainfall across the Boort wetlands and the upstream catchment was close to the long-term average during 2021-22, and temperatures were above the long-term average. Allocations in the Loddon and Goulburn systems against high-reliability water shares rose from 33 percent at the start of July to 100 percent in October, but there were no allocations against low-reliability water shares. Loddon allocations were not enough to meet all environmental demands in the Loddon River and Boort wetlands in 2021-22, so the VEWH traded 5 GL of water from its entitlements in the Goulburn to the Loddon system.

Deliveries of water for the environment for the Boort wetlands were managed in line with an average climate scenario throughout 2021-22. Watering actions were planned for Lake Boort, Lake Meran and Lake Leaghur, but water for the environment was only delivered to Lake Meran and Lake Boort.

The winter/spring fill at Lake Meran was a high priority for 2021-22, and additional water to enable the delivery was sought from the Goulburn system. Capacity constraints in the irrigation supply channel limited the rate at which water could be delivered to the lake and prevented the target level from being achieved by the end of spring. Watering ceased during summer to avoid unseasonal inundation, but it resumed in autumn to inundate fringing river red gums and black box. Lake Meran will be allowed to draw down in 2022-23 and 2023-24 to support dry-phase ecosystem processes.

A low-level partial fill at Lake Boort commenced in autumn 2022 to prime the wetland before a higher partial fill is delivered in winter/spring 2022. This was the first time water for the environment has been delivered to Lake Boort, and it is the first inflow to the lake since the 2016 floods. The Lake Boort partial fill was planned in consultation with Dja Dja Wurrung and the local Yung Balug family group, and it aimed to support river red gums that were planted in 2017 and culturally important vegetation (such as spiny flat sedge).

Lake Leaghur received a priming fill in autumn 2021, and it held sufficient water throughout winter and spring to meet the environmental objectives for 2021-22. Delivering additional water in winter/spring would have potentially compromised river red gum saplings and cane grass that were planted at Lake Leaghur in 2019-20, so the planned watering action was cancelled. Trigger-based top-ups were also not required because no significant waterbird breeding was observed.

Lake Yando was filled in 2020-21, and Little Lake Meran last filled in 2019-20. Both wetlands were allowed to draw down in 2021-22 to support dry-phase ecosystem processes.

Scope of environmental watering

Table 5.7.3 describes the potential environmental watering actions in 2022-23, their expected watering effects (that is, the intended physical or biological effects of the watering action) and the longer-term environmental objectives they support. Each environmental objective relies on one or more potential environmental watering actions and their associated physical or biological effects.

Table 5.7.3 Potential environmental watering actions, expected watering effects and associated environmental objectives for the Boort wetlands

Potential environmental watering action

Expected watering effects

Environmental objective

Lake Boort (partial fill in winter/spring, top-ups as required)

Traditional owners
  • Increase the water depth around the wetland fringe (the target water level is 90.2 m AHD) to promote the germination and recruitment of fringing vegetation, including culturally significant species (such as spiny flat sedge)
  • Support the growth of aquatic and semi-aquatic plants within the wetland
  • Grow zooplankton and waterbug communities to provide food for waterbirds and frogs
Frog iconPlant iconHeron icon

Lake Leaghur (partial fill in spring/summer or autumn/winter)1

  • Provide increased habitat area and grow zooplankton and waterbug communities to provide food resources for frogs and waterbirds
  • A spring/summer partial fill will:
    • increase the water depth (the target water level is 84.4 m AHD) around the wetland fringe to promote the germination and recruitment of fringing vegetation (such as river red gums and cane grass)
    • support the growth of aquatic and semi-aquatic plants
  • An autumn/winter partial fill will:
    • prime the wetland for spring watering in 2023-24 by breaking the dormancy of aquatic vegetation propagules so they can grow and reproduce
Frog iconPlant iconHeron icon

Lake Yando (top up to support waterbird  breeding or vegetation outcomes if triggered by a natural flood or flood mitigation water)

  • Wet the wetland fringe (the target water level is 87.6 m AHD) to promote the germination and recruitment of river red gums and black box and maintain the existing mature trees
  • Support the growth of aquatic and semi-aquatic plants
  • Provide habitat and food resources for aquatic animals
  • Grow zooplankton and waterbug communities to provide food for waterbirds and frogs
Frog iconPlant iconHeron icon

Little Lake Meran (fill in winter/spring, top-ups as required)

  • Wet the wetland fringe (the target water level is between 78.7 m AHD to 79.7 m AHD) to promote the growth and recruitment of river red gums and black box and maintain existing mature trees
  • Support the growth of aquatic and semi-aquatic plants
  • Grow zooplankton and waterbug communities to provide food for waterbirds and frogs
Frog iconPlant iconHeron icon

1 An ecological assessment will occur at Lake Leaghur in spring 2022 to determine the best season to water this wetland based on observed environmental conditions, forecast climatic conditions, water availability and expected operational delivery constraints.

Scenario planning

Table 5.7.6 outlines potential environmental watering and expected water use under a range of planning scenarios.

The water for the environment in Birchs Creek is primarily used to deliver winter/spring freshes and summer/autumn freshes, where they are not met by natural flows or consumptive water deliveries. The volume of available water for the environment is not sufficient to deliver any of the other environmental flows that are recommended for the system. The Birchs Creek Environmental Water Advisory Group (which recently combined with the Tullaroop Catchment Restoration Plan Project Reference Group) and ecologists have advised available water for the environment should be used to deliver recommended freshes in full, rather than a small proportion of recommended low flows.

Winter/spring freshes are important for cycling nutrients throughout the system and wetting higher channel features to increase connectivity between habitat types for aquatic animals. Summer/autumn freshes are needed to maintain water quality over the warmer months and ensure pools do not dry out.

Regular winter/spring freshes are important to cycle nutrients throughout the system and wet higher channel features to increase connectivity between habitat types for aquatic animals. Summer/autumn freshes are needed to maintain water quality in the warmer months and ensure pools do not dry out. However, both watering actions are important, and if required and where allocation allows, summer/autumn freshes may be prioritised to avoid critical loss of environmental values when the system is likely to be under the greatest stress. Summer/autumn freshes should be delivered at the upper magnitude where possible, either by augmenting natural or consumptive flows or by using water for the environment to deliver greater-magnitude freshes after one fresh has been met naturally. Under a drought scenario, the environment is unlikely to receive its allocation in December, so carryover from 2021-22 should be used to deliver a winter/spring fresh before the water is forfeited on 30 November. Winter/spring freshes will likely be delivered naturally by reservoir spills under average and wet climate scenarios.

Planning scenario table

Table 5.7.6 Potential environmental watering for Birchs Creek under a range of planning scenarios

Planning scenario

Drought

Dry

Average

Wet

Expected creek conditions

  • Reservoir is unlikely to spill
  • Extremely low flow in winter/spring
  • Limited irrigation releases due to low allocations
  • Reservoir spill is possible
  • Low flow in winter/ spring if no spills occur
  • Moderate irrigation releases
  • Reservoir spills are certain in winter/ spring
  • Some natural flow through summer/ autumn
  • Groundwater contributes to baseflow throughout the year
  • Reservoir spills are certain in winter/ spring
  • Natural flow through summer/ autumn
  • Groundwater contributes to baseflow throughout the year

Expected availability of water for the environment

  • 100 ML (2021 carryover)
  • 100-200 ML (2021 carryover and likely 2022 allocation)
  • 100 ML (2022 allocation)1
  • 100 ML (2022 allocation)1

Birchs Creek (targeting reach 2)

Potential environmental watering – tier 1 (high priorities)

Tier 1a (can be achieved with predicted supply)

  • Winter/spring fresh (one fresh for three days)
  • Winter/spring fresh (one fresh for three days)
  • Summer/autumn fresh(es) (one to three freshes, lower magnitude)
  • Winter/spring fresh (one fresh for three days)
  • Summer/autumn fresh(es) (one to three freshes, lower magnitude)
  • Winter/spring freshes
  • Summer/autumn freshes (three freshes)

Tier 1b (supply deficit)

  • Summer/autumn freshes (three freshes)
  • Summer/autumn freshes (deliver tier 1a freshes at upper magnitude)
  • Winter/spring fresh(es) (one to four freshes for five days)
  • Summer/autumn fresh(es) (one to four freshes, deliver tier 1a freshes at upper magnitude)
  • Summer/autumn fresh(es) (one to four freshes, deliver tier 1a freshes at upper magnitude)

Potential environmental watering – tier 2 (additional priorities)

  • N/A

Possible volume of water for the environment required to achieve objectives

  • 81-90 ML (tier 1a)
  • 135 ML (tier 1b)
  • 171-180 ML (tier 1a)
  • 45 ML (tier 1b)
  • 90 ML (tier 1a)
  • 690 ML (tier 1b)
  • 0 ML (tier 1a)
  • 180 ML (tier 1b)

Priority carryover requirements for 2023-24

  • If the 100 ML allocation is received on 1 December 2022 and water for the environment is not required to achieve summer/autumn freshes, carry over 100 ML allocation into 2023-24 for use by 30 November 2023.

1 Under an average or wet scenario, it is likely that Newlyn Reservoir will spill before 30 November 2022, losing the 100 ML carryover from December 2021.

Engagement

Table 2 shows the partners and stakeholder organisations with which North Central CMA engaged when preparing their seasonal watering proposals.

Seasonal watering proposals are informed by longer-term regional catchment strategies, regional waterway strategies, environmental flow studies, water management plans and other studies. These incorporate a range of environmental, cultural, social and economic perspectives and longerterm integrated catchment and waterway management objectives. For further details, refer to the North Central Regional Catchment Strategy and North Central  Waterway Strategy.

Table 2 Partners and stakeholders engaged in developing the Boort wetlands seasonal watering proposal

Partner and stakeholder engagement
  • Birdlife Australia
  • BirdLife Australia
  • Common- wealth Environmental Water Office
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
  • Goulburn- Murray Water
  • Parks Victoria
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (land manager)
  • Gannawarra Shire Council
  • Campaspe Shire Council
  • Swan Hill Rural City Council
  • Loddon Shire Council
  • Individual landholders and community members
  • Field and Game Australia
  • Gateway to Gannawarra Visitor centre
  • Arthur Rylah Institute (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning)
  • Contracted ecologists
  • Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation
  • Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation
  • Barapa Barapa Traditional Owners
  • Wemba Wemba Traditional Owners

Page last updated: 01/07/22