Even in these wetter conditions of 2021, water for the environment still has an important role to play. Before river regulation, water would flow over riverbanks and cross floodplains to soak natural wetlands regularly. Today, dams, roads and other structures stop water from reaching many wetlands. To get the most out of these wetter conditions the Murray Wetland Flow (#MurrayWetlandFLO) is on standby, ready to be used to assist wetlands in having enough water to support important biological cycles.
Dry conditions over the past few years mean many wetlands need a drink. Natural flows are already providing water to some of these sites now, but water for the environment is required to capitalise on nature’s work. When conditions begin to dry out, water for the environment will be used to extend the duration of flows into wetlands, top them up later in the year, or direct water to sites that miss out. This will support the recovery and improvement in wetland plants and the habitat they provide for native wildlife.
With a mix of natural flows and water for the environment, we will look to sustain key wetlands in the mid-Murray and the lower Murray. In the first instance, the Murray Wetland Flow will be used to target the creeks and wetlands in Barmah-Millewa Forest that need water every year to benefit the Moira grasslands, fringing River red gums, native fish and waterbirds. This will be done by releasing water for the environment from Hume Dam to maintain a flow varying between 12,000 to 15,000 ML per day downstream of Yarrawonga — water will only be added when natural or operational flows fail to meet these levels.
Some water for the environment that exits the forest will also contribute to wetlands further downstream. This includes the Chowilla, Pike and Katarapko floodplains, which are currently getting a drink due to a combination of natural flows and the use of infrastructure. This was will help improve the health of floodplain trees which are essential for providing valuable habitat for a range of native wildlife.
We are also prepared to respond to opportunities that emerge later in the year. For example, water naturally filling wetlands may encourage bird breeding events (A boom year for waterbirds in the Murrumbidgee). But if wetlands dry out too quickly, waterbirds will be unable to successfully complete their breeding cycle. To delay the drying out of wetlands, water for the environment is used to ‘top-up’ the wetland to maintain breeding conditions and finish what nature has begun.
Careful planning and collaboration across State agencies in NSW, Victoria and South Australia, as well as other Commonwealth agencies, has made the Murray Wetland Flow possible. The flows are being delivered in close collaboration with river operators and local site managers.
Regular updates on the flow will also be published as they become available.
For more information, please contact your nearest Local Engagement Officer:
Murray Wetland Flow event updates
Murray Wetland Flow event update 2
Following the end of flood operations at Hume Dam, delivery of water for the environment recommenced on 20 October.
Murray Wetland Flow event update 1
Widespread heavy rainfall in the upper catchments have seen high flows down the Murray River for much of winter and early spring. These natural high flows are critical to the health of the environment.
Australian white ibis on nests in phragmites reeds within a wetland of Barmah-Millewa Forest. Photo: Heather McGinness