Another e-flow - but do we need it?

September 25, 2017

We're on the river most days, so we were watching for the environmental flush due to start on Saturday. By Sunday morning it was creeping over the sandbar and The Boss wasn't all that happy about it.

He reckons the south- and east-facing banks are still damp from the last e-flow, which happened over a month in June to late July. That followed an autumn flush back in February for a month - now there's this one for 23 days and another one planned for November.

There's a few fingers in the e-flow pie: the water is owned by the Commonwealth Government after its program of buy-backs to meet the targets of the Murray Darling Plan and the responsibility for that water rests with the Environmental Water Holder.

Our Catchment Management Authority then works with the Water Holder to schedule the flows appropriately and Goulburn Murray Water, which runs the storages, actually releases it and warns its irrigators with pumps on the river that a flush is coming.

The Boss was pretty grumpy about the way this was all handled in the first few years but reckons the CMA is doing a pretty good job now - to the extent they can manage what is clearly a large volume of water that has to be delivered as part of the Plan.

They do their best to put a positive spin on it. Each e-flow is touted by the CMA and GMW as necessary for the health of the river. Here's what they say:

This is all good, if it's true. And the monitoring project the CMA is doing is showing encouraging results about many aspect of the river's health, particularly with bugs, yellow-belly spawning and cod recovery after the blackwater events.

The part The Boss isn't convinced about is how the flow will "improve lower bank-stabilising plants, inundate and provide soil moisture to banks and stream benches" when there's been plenty of rain since the July flush and the bank vegetation is in excellent health. 

More to the point, the banks are still quite damp in places and the risk is that another up-and-down flush will cause bank collapses, which was the big problem a few years ago. Here's a section of the bank opposite our sandbar where there's been a previous collapse, and the bank underneath is still quite damp.

The Boss thinks the e-flows should work for the Goulburn just as much as they work for the Murray - and that means ensuring the banks and bed of the Goulburn remain in good shape, as well as looking after the bugs and the fish. 

It's time, he says that the Environmental Water Holder came clean about how much water he expects to runs down the Goulburn each year. That means being transparent - announcing the actual volume of water to be transported with each flow as well as his annual expectations, so the Goulburn River communities are fully informed and can properly assess their impact on the river.

This is particularly important given the Murray Darling Plan is looking for even more water from the Goulburn system; if the so-called "up-water" becomes a reality, The Boss says the river will become a channel and won't be able to cope with the volume of water without sustaining serious damage. 

The Boss is very fond of his river and I wouldn't want to see him angry. Woof.

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