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The Ryans Lagoon wetland complex is a network of wetlands positioned downstream of the Lake Hume water storage and upstream of the Kiewa River confluence with the Murray River.

Flows into the complex are mainly influenced by regulated releases from Lake Hume, which travel via Ryans Creek, an anabranch of the Murray River. The complex begins to fill from Ryans Lagoon Floodway when the flow in the Murray River exceeds 23,000 ML per day, but a flow above 26,000 ML per day for extended periods is needed to completely fill both lagoons. High unregulated flows that move across the Kiewa River floodplain during wet conditions can also inundate the site. The regulated flow from Lake Hume has not exceeded 20,000 ML per day since 2014, which has greatly reduced the frequency of watering at Ryans Lagoon.

Temporary pumps are proposed to deliver water for the environment to restore the ecological health of the complex by providing a wetting and drying regime that is closer to the natural flow regime that existed before the Murray River was regulated. Water can be pumped into Ryans Lagoon from the Ryans Lagoon Floodway, which carries water when the flow in the Murray River exceeds 8,000 ML per day. A potential spring pulse of up to 25,000 ML per day (at the Doctors Point gauge) would provide water directly to Ryans Lagoon 1 via the Ryans Lagoon Floodway, but it is likely a pump would still be required to deliver water from Ryans Lagoon 1 to Ryans Lagoon 2 to achieve a full supply level.

The North East CMA is investigating options to improve watering regimes at other wetlands along the upper Murray floodplain.

Figure 5.2.1 The upper Murray wetlands

System map

Upper Murray Map

Environmental values

The North East CMA’s North East Waterway Strategy recognises the Ryans Lagoon wetland complex as a high-value wetland system, and it is listed as a nationally significant wetland in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia. The complex provides habitat for seven bird, three fish and one perennial plant species listed under the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and/or the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. Ecological surveys conducted at the site since 1975 have recorded 250 species of waterbugs and 29 species of waterbirds, including the Australian white ibis, great egret and rufous night heron. The complex also supports native wetland vegetation types, the conditions of which are expected to improve once a seasonally aligned, more variable watering regime is reinstated.

Environmental objectives in the upper Murray wetlands

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Restore carbon and nutrient cycling within the wetlands to increase ecosystem productivity
Increase habitat for native fish and increase their populations
Increase habitat for native fish and increase their populations
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Increase the extent of fringing and aquatic vegetation
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Provide feeding habitat for a range of waterbird species
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Increase the abundance and diversity of waterbugs to support aquatic food webs

Traditional Owner cultural values and uses

Traditional Owners have lived on the upper Murray floodplain for tens of thousands of years. Wetlands in the region have immense cultural value to Traditional Owners, including those represented by the Dhudhuroa Nations, the Dalka Warra Mittung Aboriginal Corporation and the Duduroa Dhargal Aboriginal Corporation.

The North East CMA is building relationships with each corporation and aims to support Traditional Owner input to planned environmental flows at the Ryans Lagoon wetland complex in the coming years. In the long term, the North East CMA aims to support the defined objectives of Traditional Owners for the complex and Traditional Owners’ obligations to Country more broadly.

Traditional Owners from Duduroa Dhargal Aboriginal Corporation (DDAC) recently received funding to assist in managing Ryans Lagoon Nature Conservation Reserve for three years (2023-26) alongside Parklands Albury Wodonga Ltd. The funding will employ a DDAC Elder as a part-time ranger to undertake management activities, including ecological thinning, weed management and pest control. The ranger will also train First Nations people in cultural burning, cultural harvesting and cultural education activities.

Increasing the involvement of Traditional Owners in environmental water management and progressing opportunities for self-determination in the environmental watering program is a core commitment of the VEWH and its agency partners. This is reinforced by legislation and policy commitments, including the Water Act 1989, the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework, the 2016 Water for Victoria, the Water is Life: Traditional Owner Access to Water Roadmap 2022, 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 5.2.1 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.

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

The North East CMA and DDAC met on Country at Ryans Lagoon in late 2022 and early 2023. These meetings provided an opportunity for DDAC to explain important cultural values at Ryans Lagoon and some of their objectives for managing Country, including water.

As explained above, the recent increase in the DDAC’s capacity will enable DDAC to engage in the planning and delivery of environmental water to Ryans Lagoon in 2023-24 and beyond.

The North East CMA will work with DDAC to develop arrangements for delivering environmental water to Ryans Lagoon, including the timing and methods of delivering water and plans for monitoring in 2023-24. DDAC supports and will assist with pumping water to Ryans Lagoon if required.

Social, recreational and economic values and uses

In planning the potential environmental watering actions in Table 5.2.1, the North East CMA considered how environmental flows could support values and uses, including:

  • recreation and amenity (such as birdwatching)
  • community events (such as visitation by schools, Landcare groups and other community groups)
  • socioeconomic benefits (such as incidental visitation to local towns and businesses)

Scope of environmental watering

Table 5.2.1 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 objectives they support. Each environmental objective relies on one or more potential environmental watering actions and their associated physical or biological effects.

Table 5.2.1 Potential environmental watering actions, expected watering effects and associated environmental objectives for the upper Murray wetlands

Potential environmental
watering action

Expected Watering Effects

Environmental objective

Ryans Lagoon 1 and Ryans Lagoon 2 (fill in winter/spring)

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  • Mobilise carbon and nutrients within the wetlands to support wetland processes
  • Maintain permanent, deep, open-water habitat that supports food resources for waterbirds and native fish
  • Inundate wetland margins to provide refuge and feeding habitat for small and large-bodied native fish
  • Increase soil moisture to promote the growth of fringing vegetation and the surrounding river red gum community
  • Inundate beds of aquatic and semi-aquatic vegetation to stimulate growth and increase their extent
  • Prevent the encroachment of river red gum saplings into deep areas of the wetland
  • Inundate wetland margins to provide habitat for waterbugs and foraging opportunities for waterbirds
Fish iconPlant iconJigsaw iconBird iconInsect icon

Page last updated: 01/07/22