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Below Lake Eppalock, the major in-stream structure is the Campaspe Weir, which was built to divert water to the Campaspe Irrigation District. It is no longer used for water diversion but is a barrier to fish migration. Higher flows spill over the weir. The Campaspe Siphon, just below Rochester, is part of the Waranga Western Channel, which carries water from the Goulburn system to western Victoria. Water can be released from the Waranga Western Channel into the lower reaches of the Campaspe River, but the siphon is another barrier to fish migration when there is low-to-moderate flow.

The flow below Lake Eppalock is largely influenced by releases from storage and the operation of the Campaspe Weir and the Campaspe Siphon. The Campaspe’s major tributary (the Coliban River) flows through the three Coliban Water storages (the Upper Coliban, Lauriston and Malmsbury reservoirs) before reaching Lake Eppalock. Water for the environment is held and released from Lake Eppalock, with some limited ability to regulate flow further downstream at the Campaspe Weir.

Water for the environment is released from Lake Eppalock to support aquatic plants and animals in and along the Campaspe River. It can be supplemented by water for the environment delivered via the Waranga Western Channel at the Campaspe Siphon, which provides important flexibility to meet environmental demands in reach 4. Water for the environment is primarily used in the Campaspe River to improve the magnitude and variability of flow during winter and spring, but it is also used to deliver critical flow in summer and autumn that is not met or exceeded by operational deliveries. Primary flow measurement points are at Barnadown (reach 2) and below the Campaspe Siphon (reach 4).

Goulburn-Murray Water transfers operational water from Lake Eppalock or through Waranga Western Channel to customers in the Murray River and to downstream storages (such as Lake Victoria). These inter-valley transfers (IVTs) usually occur in summer and autumn and, depending on the rate of delivery, can either support or compromise environmental flow objectives. High IVT flows delivered at a time when the Campaspe River would naturally have low flow may reduce the amount of suitable habitat for juvenile fish, which rely on protected, shallow areas of water near the edge of the river channel. Sustained high

IVT flows in summer can also drown recruiting streamside vegetation. Storage managers and North Central CMA have been working cooperatively to enhance the positive effects and limit the negative effects of IVTs on native plants and animals in the Campaspe River. For example, IVTs are sometimes delivered in a pattern that meets summer low-flow and fresh requirements, thereby reducing demand on the environmental entitlement. IVTs have also been released in a pattern to support native fish migration from the Murray River into reach 4 of the Campaspe River without affecting delivery to downstream users.

Proportion of water entitlements in the Campaspe River held by private users, water corporations and environmental water holders on 30 June 2020

Traditional Owners
Environmental water holder

System map

Environmental watering objectives in the Campaspe River

Fish icon
Provide habitat to help protect and increase populations of native fish

Facilitate recolonisation by native fish species (including trout cod and blackfish) that have been presumed lost
Landscape icon
Enhance the channel form and features, including deep pools and benches

Maintain the condition of suitable substrate to maintain ecosystem processes

Engage floodrunners, distributary channels, anabranches and backwaters
Plant icon
Maintain adult river red gums and increase the recruitment of immature trees

Maintain the extent and increase the diversity of streamside vegetation

Increase the extent of in-stream aquatic plants
Insect icon
Increase the diversity and biomass of waterbugs
Water icon
Maintain water quality in deep pools and prevent stratification in summer

Reduce the risk of hypoxic blackwater events in summer
Platypus icon
Protect the resident platypus population

Environmental values

The Campaspe River below Lake Eppalock provides important habitat for several native fish species, including Murray cod, silver perch, golden perch, Murray-Darling rainbowfish and flat-headed gudgeon. Murray-Darling rainbowfish were presumed lost from the system during the Millennium drought, but since 2011, they have been recorded at many sites on the Campaspe River and are now abundant below Elmore. Environmental flows help native fish migrate and disperse throughout the Campaspe system.

Platypus, rakali (water rats), turtles and frogs are also present along the length of the Campaspe River. The streamside vegetation zone is narrow and dominated by large, mature river red gum trees that support wildlife (such as the swift parrot and squirrel glider).

Traditional Owner cultural values and uses

In planning for environmental flows in the Campaspe River, North Central CMA has worked with Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (trading as DJAARA), Taungurung Land and Waters Council and Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation to discuss how cultural values and uses can be supported by water for the environment and the importance of Traditional Owner involvement in management.

Despite the significant impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the ability to conduct face-to-face engagement on 2022-23 watering priorities, all three Corporations reviewed the watering priorities and discussions were had. These included:

  1. discussions between the DJAARA Kapa Gatjin (water advisory) Group and North Central CMA about 2022-23 priorities, including opportunities for Djaara (the Dja Dja Wurrung people) to participate in field visits and monitoring. In 2020, Kapa Gatjin expressed their aspirations and environmental objectives for the Campaspe River in a more general sense and highlighted the significance of native fish, turtles, medicine plants and pest control. I Dja Dja Wurrung will continue to build on traditional ecological knowledge to further inform seasonal watering proposals and plans and will play a greater role in the administering of environmental water.
  2. discussions between Taungurung Land and Waters Council’s Baan Ganalina Advisory Group and North Central CMA about 2022-23 priorities, including opportunities for Dja Dja Wurrung field visits and monitoring. This included discussions at the 2022 North Central CMA River Tour. In late 2019, Baan Ganalina highlighted the importance of native fauna and identified the importance of overstorey, mid-layer and aquatic vegetation in creating healthy habitat and preventing flows that might erode or damage cultural sites.
  3. discussions between the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation Consultation group and Goulburn Broken, North East and North Central CMAs, where CMA activities on Country are discussed. At these meetings in the past, Yorta Yorta Traditional Owners have raised concerns regarding the impacts of groundwater extraction on river flows and gold mining in the Campaspe Valley, and support flows that will mitigate the impacts of consumptive water delivery over summer and provide conditions to improve habitat for platypus breeding.

Social, recreational and economic values and uses

In planning the potential watering actions in Table 5.6.1, North Central CMA considered how environmental flows could support values and uses, including:

  • water-based recreation (such as canoeing, kayaking, fishing and water sports)
  • riverside recreation and amenity (such as birdwatching, bushwalking, camping, cycling, duck hunting and picnicking)
  • community events and tourism (such as visitors travelling to canoe and kayak on the river)
  • socio-economic benefits (such as diversions for irrigation, domestic and stock uses; local and regional economic benefits from increased visitation; ecosystem services [such as carbon storage, groundwater recharge and water-quality regulation]; lower salinity management costs and blackwater and blue-green algae risks for landholders; and contributions to community enjoyment, health and recuperation).

If the timing or management of planned environmental flows may be modified to align with a community benefit, this is acknowledged in Table 5.6.1 with the following icon.

Camping icons

Watering planned to support peaks in visitation (e.g. camping or other public activities on long weekends or school holidays)

There are many places along the Campaspe River where visitors like to camp. Aysons Reserve is a popular camping site near Elmore, and it draws hundreds of campers during school holiday periods. Where possible, freshes are delivered outside of peak visitation periods (such as the March and April long weekends) to ensure the flow is not too high for campers and water- related activities.

Recent conditions

Rainfall in the Campaspe system in 2021-22 was close to the long-term average, although spring 2021 was wetter than average. Maximum temperatures across the system were slightly above the long-term average. Allocations against high- reliability water shares rose from 14 percent at the start of July to 100 percent in September, but there were no allocations against low-reliability water shares. Available allocations were not enough to meet demands for environmental flows, so 4 GL of water for the environment from the Goulburn was traded into the Campaspe system to support 2021-22 potential watering actions.

Deliveries of water for the environment for the Campaspe system were managed in line with an average climate scenario throughout 2021-22. Most planned watering actions were achieved through a combination of environmental flows, natural flows and operational deliveries. Extremely low demand for IVTs from the Campaspe River meant more water for the environment was needed to achieve the target low flow and freshes from late spring to autumn, compared to previous seasons. Two of the planned summer/autumn freshes were used to help mitigate low-oxygen conditions that were detected during hot weather in mid-December and late January.

The only planned watering action not delivered in 2021-22 was a second winter/spring fresh. Winter/spring freshes aim to flush organics from the riverbanks and low benches to reduce the risk of blackwater events in summer, support river red gums and prevent terrestrial grasses from colonising the river banks. The Campaspe River has received most of its recommended flow regime over the last two years, and the first fresh delivered in September 2021 met its objectives. The second fresh was not delivered to avoid unnecessarily disturbing Murray cod during their nesting season. North Central CMA is working with fish ecologists to determine the circumstances under which future freshes should be delivered during the Murray cod nesting season.

Regular fish surveys conducted as part of the Victorian Environmental Flows Monitoring and Assessment Program (VEFMAP) demonstrate that native fish communities in the Campaspe River have steadily improved since 2014. VEFMAP has also reported better streamside and in-stream vegetation in sections of the river where livestock are excluded. Watering actions that aim to expose mudflats during autumn to promote native vegetation recruitment in these areas may be trialled in 2022-23.

Scope of environmental planning

Table 5.6.1 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 objective(s) they support. Each environmental objective relies on one or more potential environmental watering actions and their associated physical or biological effects.

Table 5.6.1 Potential environmental watering actions, expected watering effects and associated environmental objectives for the Campaspe River

Potential environmental watering action

Expected watering effects

Environmental objectives

Winter/spring low flow (50-200 ML/day during June to November)

  • Increase longitudinal connectivity to allow native fish to access new habitats
  • Provide foraging opportunities across a wide range of habitats for female platypus to develop fat reserves before breeding
  • Maintain water quality by preventing pools from stratifying
  • Discourage terrestrial plants from colonising the lower sections of the riverbank and low benches in the channel
  • Maintain soil moisture in the riverbank to water established river red gums and woody shrubs
  • Help establish littoral vegetation1
  • Provide a variety and large abundance of habitats for high macroinvertebrate productivity supporting food webs
  • Greater-magnitude flows will facilitate:
    • long-distance movement by male platypus, especially in the August to October breeding season
    • greater movement of large-bodied native fish
Fish iconPlatypus iconPlant iconWaterbug iconWater drop icon

Winter/spring fresh(es) (one to two2 freshes 1,000-1,800 ML/day for two to seven days during June to November)

  • Flush accumulated leaf litter from the banks and low benches to reduce the risk of blackwater events during high river flow in summer
  • Maintain soil moisture for established river red gum and woody shrubs (such as bottlebrush and tea tree)
  • Provide sufficient velocity to scour accumulated sediment from pools and scour biofilms
  • Maintain connectivity to allow native fish movement and to access new habitats
  • Encourage female platypus to select nesting burrows higher up the bank to reduce the risk of a high flow later in the year flooding burrows when juveniles are present
Fish iconMountain Stream iconPlatypus iconPlant iconWater drop icon

Summer/autumn low flow (40-50 ML/day3 at the Campaspe Siphon during December to May)

  • Maintain slackwater habitats for zooplankton and nursery habitats for native fish
  • Maintain the water depth and prevent stratification in deep pools in summer to maintain habitat for native fish and platypus
  • Inundate a variety of habitats to increase the growth of biofilms and support waterbug productivity
  • Allow platypus to safely move between pools while foraging, and ensure there is adequate food for lactating females
  • Reducing flow to 20 ML/day in reaches 2 and 3 in autumn will expose mudflats and encourage the recruitment of some fringing vegetation
Fish iconPlatypus iconWater drop iconPlant iconWaterbug icon

Summer/autumn freshes (three freshes of 100- 200 ML/day for one to three days during December to May)

Camping icon
  • Increase longitudinal connectivity to allow native fish to access new habitats
  • Wet submerged wood and flush fine silt and old biofilms to promote new biofilm growth and increase waterbug productivity for native fish and platypus
  • Facilitate the downstream dispersal of juvenile platypus in April/May to colonise other habitat areas
Fish iconPlatypus iconWaterbug icon

Year-round fresh (trigger- based, 5-200 ML/day as required)

Triggers:

  • the oxygen levels are below 5 mg/L
  • the air temperature is above 28°
  • there are high water temperatures and/or low river flow
  • Destratify pools and improve water quality (increase oxygen levels) along the river in reach 4, ensuring there is adequate oxygen to support aquatic animals (such as native fish and platypus)
Water drop icon

Scenario planning

Table 5.6.2 outlines potential environmental watering and expected water use under a range of planning scenarios.

Planned watering actions for the Campaspe River focus on meeting low-flow targets throughout the year and delivering a mix of small and medium-sized freshes. Low-flow actions will likely be delivered at the lower end of the target magnitude range under dry and drought scenarios to conserve water, and the number of freshes delivered will also likely vary between scenarios.

Under a drought scenario, there is unlikely to be enough available supply to deliver summer/autumn freshes to boost ecosystem productivity and allow fish and platypus to disperse. There is also likely to be less need for these flows under drier scenarios because platypus and fish may not breed. Available water will instead be used to deliver small to medium- sized freshes when needed, to maintain pool habitat and improve water quality to prevent significant losses of existing plants and animals. North Central CMA will monitor water levels and water quality throughout the year to inform the timing of these trigger-based freshes.

Under average and wet climate scenarios, there will be more available supply. This will allow more freshes to be delivered to help increase the size and condition of platypus, native fish and native plant populations. A second winter/spring fresh will only be delivered if it can be timed to not interfere with potential Murray cod breeding.

Flow may be lowered to about 20 ML per day in reaches 2 and 3 in autumn under all scenarios to encourage recruitment of fringing plants on exposed mudflats. This action is a joint initiative between North Centra CMA and vegetation ecologists working on VEFMAP, and it will be supported by dedicated monitoring if it proceeds. Lowering flow in reach 4 may pose a risk to water quality, so the watering trial will only proceed if sufficient water can be delivered from the Western Waranga Channel to supplement flow downstream of the Campaspe Siphon.

The carryover target for 2023-24 is based on the volume required to deliver priority summer/autumn low flow during 2023-24 if there is a return to dry or drought conditions. No carryover targets are set for the average/wet scenario as early-season allocations are likely to be sufficient to meet summer/autumn low flow environmental flow demands.

Planning scenario table

Table 5.6.2 Potential environmental watering for the Campaspe River under a range of planning scenarios

Planning scenario

Drought

Dry

Average/Wet

Expected river conditions

  • Little to no natural flow from tributaries and local run-off
  • Low passing flow
  • Operational water deliveries
  • Some natural flow from tributaries and local run-off
  • Increased passing flow
  • Operational water deliveries
  • Moderate to high natural flow from tributaries and local run-off
  • Increased passing flow
  • No expected spills from storage, except under extremely wet conditions

Expected availability of water for the environment

  • 19,500 ML
  • 25,200 ML
  • 30,400 ML

Planning scenario

Drought

Dry

Average/Wet

Campaspe River (targeting reach 4)

Potential environmental watering – tier 1 (high priorities)

Tier 1a (can be achieved with predicted supply)

  • Winter/spring low flow (at lower magnitude)
  • Winter/spring fresh (one fresh)
  • Summer/autumn low flow1
  • Year-round fresh (if required)
  • Winter/spring low flow
  • Winter/spring fresh (one fresh)
  • Summer/autumn low flow1
  • Summer/autumn freshes (three freshes)
  • Year-round fresh (if required)
  • Winter/spring low flow
  • Winter/spring fresh (one to two freshes2)
  • Summer/autumn low flow1
  • Summer/autumn freshes (three freshes)
  • Year-round fresh (if required)

Tier 1b (supply deficit)

  • Summer/autumn freshes (three freshes)
  • N/A
  • N/A

Potential environmental watering – tier 2 (additional priorities)

  • N/A

Possible volume of water for the environment required to achieve objectives

  • 19,000 ML (tier 1a)
  • 900 ML (tier 1a Goulburn)
  • 2,100 ML (tier 1b)
  • 24,500 ML (tier 1a)
  • 1,200 ML (tier 1a Goulburn)
  • 26,400 ML (tier 1a)
  • 1,200 ML (tier 1a Goulburn)

Priority carryover requirements for 2023-24

  • 7,500 ML3
  • 6,000 ML3
  • N/A

1 This potential watering action may have a period of a lower flow rate in reaches 2 and 3 (20 ML/day) while maintaining the 40-50 ML/day flow in reach 4. To achieve this outcome, water for the environment from the Goulburn will need to be delivered to reach 4 at the Campaspe Siphon.
2 A second winter/spring fresh may be delivered under average or wet climate scenarios to further improve streamside vegetation by wetting riverbanks, support fish movement and clear accumulated leaf litter to reduce the risk of blackwater events during summer high flow.
3 These carryover targets may be achieved by trading water from other systems, and they have not been included in the determination of potential watering actions in this climate scenario.

Engagement

Table 2 shows the partners and stakeholder organisations the North Central CMA engaged in preparing the Campaspe system 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 the North Central Waterway Strategy.

Table 2 Partners and stakeholders engaged in developing the Campaspe system seasonal watering proposals

Partner and stakeholder engagement
  • Echuca Moama Landcare Group
  • Strathallan Family Landcare
  • Commonwealth Environmental Water Office
  • Goulburn- Murray Water
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
  • Game Man- agement Authority
  • Individual Landholders and community members
  • Local canoe club
  • Paddle Victoria
  • VRFish
  • Arthur Rylah Institute (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning)
  • Dja Dja Wurrung
  • Clans Aboriginal Corporation
  • Taungurung Land and Waters Council
  • Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation

Page last updated: 01/07/22