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The WMPP replaced stock and domestic supply dams with tanks, and the open-channel distribution system with pipelines, to improve water efficiency. A portion of the water savings from the WMPP was converted to an environmental entitlement to improve the condition of the area’s flow-stressed rivers, creeks and wetlands; the rest was used to create regional development opportunities and boost the reliability of supply for other users. The WMPP reduced the amount of open-water habitat in areas that were formerly supplied by the open-channel system, so a separate 1,000 ML environmental entitlement was created to water some of the wetlands that were previously supplied through the channel system. There are 52 priority wetlands that can receive water from this environmental entitlement.

Water for the environment can only be delivered to the wetlands when there is sufficient capacity in the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline system, which can be affected by demand from other pipeline customers. The North Central, Mallee and Wimmera CMAs work closely with GWMWater and land managers (including Parks Victoria, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and private landowners) to take account of pipeline capacity constraints when ordering environmental deliveries to wetlands.

Traditional Owners
Storage manager
Environmental water holder

System map

Environmental watering objectives in the Wimmera-Mallee wetlands

Frog icon
Maintain and increase the population of frogs and turtles
Maintain and increase the population of turtles
Maintain and increase the population of turtles
Kangaroo icon
Provide watering holes for native animals and terrestrial birds across the landscape
Plant icon
Maintain and improve the condition of aquatic and fringing plants including lignum, river red gum and black box communities Improve the diversity of vegetation communities by providing watering regimes to support plant life cycles in and around the wetlands
bird icon
Maintain and increase populations of waterbirds and other native birds by providing resting, feeding and breeding habitat
Insect icon
Maintain the population of waterbugs

Environmental values

There are many wetland types in the Wimmera-Mallee wetlands system including freshwater meadows, open freshwater lakes and freshwater marshes. This diversity provides a range of different wetland habitats for plants and animals across the Wimmera-Mallee region. The wetlands also vary in size and support different vegetation communities. Some are home to native waterbird populations including brolgas, egrets, blue-billed ducks, freckled ducks, Australian painted snipes and glossy ibis. The wetlands are used by the vulnerable growling grass frog, turtles and many other native animals that may use them as drought refuges and drinking holes. Rare and vulnerable vegetation species (such as spiny lignum, ridged water milfoil, chariot wheel and cane grass) are also present in some wetlands.

Traditional Owner cultural values and uses

Spanning a broad geographic area, several Wimmera-Mallee wetlands show indications of the longstanding cultural heritage and importance of these sites to the Traditional Owners of the region, including but not limited to those represented by the Barengi Gadjin Land Council and the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation. Some sites have artefacts and scar trees recorded in or adjacent to them, and further cultural surveys could better inform management of water for the environment at those sites.

The Barengi Gadjin Land Council is the Registered Aboriginal Party for a significant land area of the Wimmera-Mallee wetlands. The Barengi Gadjin Land Council represents the Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagalk. The Barengi Gadjin Land Council has discussed the significance of the wetlands and their aspiration to undertake work at these sites in future, and it provided the following statement to Mallee CMA when discussing environmental watering:

The Wimmera-Mallee is living cultural landscape and there is a lack of recorded data regarding the cultural values over many sections of the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline. Several highly significant places are outlined through our Country Plan, but like all places across our Country, the rivers, creeks, lakes, wetlands and swamps, and all other landscape features in this area are of high cultural significance. We wish to care for Country again through our traditional land management practices and revive and share the ancient narrative of this area. Mapping the cultural values of places along the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline will be essential in contributing to integrated catchment management.

We are unable to identify places of particular cultural values and uses confidently until Aboriginal Water Assessment/Cultural Heritage Surveys are systematically undertaken across Wimmera-Mallee pipeline sites. All of the swamps, wetlands and soaks of this area are of high cultural significance as they are linked to Traditional trading routes that extend in all directions. It is essential that all of these places are managed correctly and water quality and biodiversity are improved.

Social, recreational and economic values and uses

In planning the potential watering actions in Table 1, the Mallee, North Central and Wimmera CMAs considered how environmental flows could support values and uses including:

  • water-based recreation (such as fishing, kayaking, swimming and yabbying)
  • riverside recreation and amenity (such as birdwatching, duck and quail hunting, photography, picnicking and walking)
  • community events and tourism (such as citizen science including the collection of data about bird species and abundance, frog species and microbat recordings).

Recent conditions

Rainfall across the Wimmera-Mallee region was close to the long-term average during 2020-21, but inflows to storages in the Wimmera-Mallee System Headworks were low and did not replenish storage levels, which are low due to much drier- than-average conditions in the past four years. The Wimmera-Mallee pipeline wetland environmental entitlement received no allocation in 2020-21, and all deliveries of water for the environment to the wetlands in 2020-21 were supplied with water carried over from previous years.

Deliveries of water for the environment to the Wimmera-Mallee wetlands were made in accord with a dry climate scenario. Watering objectives for 2020-21 were almost fully achieved, with water for the environment deliveries or natural inflows providing the required water regime for 38 of the 42 wetlands planned under a dry climate scenario. Landowners’ consent could not be obtained in time to support planned environmental watering actions at two wetlands, one wetland did not receive water due to unauthorised grazing by livestock, and a planned watering action at another wetland was met by local runoff. Water for the environment was delivered to 23 wetlands in the Mallee CMA region, ten wetlands in the Wimmera CMA region and five wetlands in the North Central CMA region in winter/spring 2020 and/or autumn/winter 2021. Some wetlands received water once during 2020-21, while others received additional top-ups to maintain their water-dependent values.

Visual surveys at the wetlands across the region have found that water for the environment delivered to the Wimmera-Mallee wetlands provided feeding and breeding habitat for many animals (such as eastern long-necked turtles, frogs, yabbies, rainbow bee-eaters, ducks, grebes and other water and woodland birds). Many wetlands had a noticeable increase of new growth of aquatic and semi-aquatic plants including nardoo, water milfoil, water ribbons and cane grass. Fringing plant species including black box trees, chariot wheels (a nationally threatened forb species) and lignum plants had new canopy growth and greater abundance at some watered wetlands.

If dry conditions continue in 2021-22, water for the environment will be essential to maintain aquatic and semi-aquatic plants and provide habitat for water-dependant animal species. Under wetter conditions, water for the environment will be used to complement natural inflows and wet a larger proportion of fringing vegetation (such as black box and lignum), to improve its resilience in future dry years.

Scope of environmental watering

Table 1 Potential environmental watering actions, expected watering effects and associated environmental objectives for the Wimmera-Mallee wetlands

Potential environmental watering

Expected watering effects

Environmental objectives
North Central wetlands
Chirrup Swamp
  • Provide a permanent water source for refuge and to support feeding and breeding opportunities for frogs, waterbirds and turtles

Frog iconKangaroo icon

Corack Lake
  • Provide a permanent water source for refuge and nursery habitat for turtles and frogs
  • Maintain varying depths of water to support aquatic and fringing plants' life cycles
  • Maintain varying depths of water to support a variety of feeding habitats for waterbirds
Frog icon Plant iconHeron icon
Creswick Swamp
  • Maintain varying depths of water to support the life cycle of aquatic plants including threatened marbled marshwort
  • Provide a permanent water source for refuge and to support feeding and breeding opportunities for frogs and turtles
  • Maintain water levels to prolong wetting and ensure successful waterbird breeding events, if they start

Frog iconTurtle iconsPlant iconHeron icon

Davis Dam
  • Wet black box and rare cane grass to allow plants to complete their life cycles and to support juvenile plants
  • Provide a semi-permanent water source to support refuge and feeding and breeding opportunities for frogs
  • Provide a permanent water source for refuge and to support feeding and breeding opportunities for waterbirds and terrestrial species

Frog iconKangaroo iconPlant icon

Falla Dam

  • Provide a permanent water source for refuge and to support feeding and breeding opportunities for frogs, waterbirds and terrestrial species
  • Stimulate frog and turtle breeding by providing a deep, permanent water source in spring
  • Stimulate aquatic and fringing vegetation growth in winter/spring

Frog iconTurtle iconsBird iconPlant iconKangaroo icon

Jeffcott Wildlife Reserve

  • Maintain a minimum depth of water to support the life cycles of aquatic plants
  • Provide a permanent water source for refuge and to support feeding and breeding opportunities for frogs, waterbugs, waterbirds and turtles

Frog iconPlant iconHeron iconTurtle iconsInsect icon

Jesse Swamp

  • Maintain varying depths of water to support aquatic and fringing plant life cycles
  • Provide a permanent water source for refuge and to support feeding and breeding opportunities for frogs, waterbirds and terrestrial species

Frog iconPlant iconHeron iconKangaroo icon

Wimmera wetlands

Carapugna

  • Provide a permanent water source for refuge and to support feeding and breeding opportunities for frogs, waterbirds and terrestrial species
  • Stimulate aquatic and fringing vegetation growth and allow plants to complete their life cycles including ridged water milfoil, black box and spiny lignum to complete their life cycles

Frog iconHeron iconPlant iconKangaroo icon

Challambra Swamp

Crow Swamp

Fieldings Dam

Harcoans Swamp

Mutton Swamp

Opies Dam

Pinedale

Sawpit Swamp

Schultz/Koschitzke

Tarkedia Dam

Wal Wal Swamp

Mallee wetlands

Barbers Swamp

  • Provide a permanent water source for refuge and to support feeding and breeding opportunities for waterbirds and terrestrial species
  • Stimulate aquatic and fringing vegetation growth and allow the plants including ridged water milfoil, black box and spiny lignum to complete their life cycles
Plant icon Heron iconKangaroo icon

Barbers Swamp

Morton Plains Reserve

Tchum Lakes Lake Reserve (North Lake – wetland)

Tchum Lakes Swimming Pool (North Lake – dam)

Goulds Reserve

Lake Danaher Bushland Reserve

Cokum Bushland Reserve

  • Stimulate aquatic and fringing vegetation growth and allow the plants including ridged water milfoil, black box and spiny lignum to complete their life cycles
  • Provide a permanent water source for refuge and to support feeding and breeding opportunities for frogs, turtles, waterbirds and terrestrial species

Plant iconKangaroo iconTurtle iconsFrog iconBird icon

Part of Gap Reserve

Rickard Glenys Dam

Broom Tank

  • Stimulate aquatic and fringing vegetation growth and allow the plants including black box and lignum to complete their life cycles
  • Provide a permanent water source for refuge and to support feeding and breeding opportunities for waterbirds and terrestrial species

Plant iconKangaroo iconBird icon

Clinton Shire Dam

Greens Wetland

J Ferrier Wetland

Considines

  • Provide a permanent water source for refuge and to support feeding and breeding opportunities for frogs and turtles

Turtle iconsFrog icon

Cronomby Tanks

Newer Swamp

  • Stimulate aquatic and fringing vegetation growth and allow the plants including black box and lignum to complete their life cycles

Plant icon

Engagement

Table 2 shows the partners, stakeholder organisations and individuals with which the Wimmera, Mallee and North Central CMAs engaged when preparing the WimmeraMallee wetlands seasonal watering proposal.

Seasonal watering proposals are informed by longer-term regional catchment management strategies, regional waterway strategies, environmental water management plans and other studies, which incorporate environmental, cultural, social and economic considerations. For further details, refer to the Wimmera, North Central and Mallee regional catchment strategies and waterway strategies.

Table 2 Partners and stakeholders engaged in developing the Wimmera-Mallee wetlands seasonal watering proposal

Partner and stakeholder engagement

  • Local Landcare groups
  • Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder
  • Department of Environment Land, Water and Planning (Crown Land Management)
  • Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water
  • Parks Victoria
  • Buloke Shire Council
  • Yarriambiack Shire Council
  • Landholders
  • Wimmera Mallee Tourism
  • Natimuk and District Field and Game
  • Mallee CMA Land and Water Advisory Committee
  • Arthur Rylah Institute (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning)
  • Birchip Cropping Group
  • Community members
  • Cokum community group
  • Green Lake Regional Park
  • Ouyen Lake Project
  • Lake Tchum Committee
  • Wimmera Bushwalking Club
  • Barenji Gadjin Land Council
  • Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation

Page last updated: 22/01/21