Water

Environmental water plan released for the southern basin

By Jamie Salter

Northern Victorian rivers will have improved vegetation and riverbanks, with increased habitat and food to support fish migration and breeding.

This is the aim of the Water Management Plan from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office for 2020-21.

The plan determines how to keep rivers and wetlands across the Murray-Darling Basin healthy.

For the Murray River, priority creeks, wetlands and forests will be linked with the main river channel to protect key habitat for native fish and wildlife, including threatened species.

The Murray will continue to flow to the Coorong to maintain water quality and habitat for native fish.

The Lower Darling River will connect to the Murray River to improve water quality and support breeding of Murray cod and golden perch.

The new water year will start with low storages and the lowest volume of carryover in a decade.

The forecast water available for the southern connected basin is 1539 Gl with 267 Gl carryover from 2019-20.

The Lachlan River valley is forecast to have 67 Gl with 16 Gl carryover while the Wimmera River valley has no forecast allocation.

Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder Jody Swirepik said they compared how much water they were likely to have with what the environment would need.

“What we aim to achieve depends on how much water is allocated to us — every year is different,” Ms Swirepik said.

“With the recent good rains in many catchments we, like irrigators, are hoping for better allocations in the coming season.”

The plan is the result of months of working with water managers, scientists, First Nations peoples and local communities to prioritise critical sites across the basin.

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Management Plan for 2020-21 is available at: environment.gov.au/water/cewo/publications/overview-water-mgt-planning-2020-21