High flow for river health

July 18, 2017

Supporting river health . . . Goulburn Broken CMA waterways manager Jim Castles.

Shepparton residents would have noticed the Goulburn River has been running higher than usual during the past couple of weeks as environmental flows take effect.

Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority environmental water manager Simon Casanelia said the river flow was actually decreasing now after a release from Goulburn Weir on June 20, which peaked about 9000Ml/day at Shepparton on July 2.

Flow will return to normal base flow levels — 800 to 900Ml/day — by the end of the month.

River users in the Echuca district and downstream would have noticed the Murray River was rising as environmental water entered from the Goulburn River.

Mr Casanelia said the release was necessary to keep the environment healthy.

‘‘As much of the rain and run-off into the Goulburn River is now captured in the dams and used to supply towns, industry and farms, the amount of water flowing down the river in winter and spring has reduced.

‘‘It also means the river flows higher and faster in the hotter months of the year when communities require more water, which is the opposite of what would happen if there were no dams and weirs.

‘‘These changes have affected the health and survival of native plants and animals, so we’re giving nature a helping hand and delivering environmental water at this time of the year to mimic more natural flow conditions,’’ he said.

The increase in river height was well below minor flood level — 9m at Murchison and 9.5m at Shepparton.

Mr Casanelia said the flow would also help bank-stabilising plant growth on the lower banks of the lower Goulburn River.

‘‘Recent monitoring shows that the river banks held up fairly well during the natural floods we experienced late last year,’’ he said.

‘‘This was due to the ‘right’ types of native plants starting to establish and spread, thanks to environmental flows delivered during the past few years.’’

He said the extra water would also improve water quality and provide food and shelter for waterbugs and native fish.

‘‘Improved water quality will help crayfish, shrimps, water bugs and native fish continue to recover after the naturally occurring blackwater event that occurred earlier this year after a summer storm,’’ Mr Casanelia said.

The timing of the environmental flows takes into consideration delivery orders by irrigators and other water users and feedback from the community via the Goulburn Broken CMA’s environmental water advisory groups.

■To find out more about environmental flows and the purpose of them, go to www.gbcma.vic.gov.au

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