Water for the environment in the upper Barwon

In a first for the upper Barwon River, water for the environment has been released to give river health and native fish a helping hand.

“Water for the environment has never been delivered to this part of the river before and is a great win for the river and communities,” says a Corangamite Catchment Management Authority spokesperson.

“A recent study has shown that the upper Barwon River needs increased flows to protect plants, fish and animals that depend on the river, many of which have cultural significance for Traditional Owners and provide recreational opportunities for visitors.”

The upper Barwon River received a ‘pulse’ of 485 megalitres over 11 days from the 15th to 26th February, released from the West Barwon Reservoir. The aim was to improve river health by flushing sediment, wetting riparian vegetation and connecting habitat pools that provide a refuge for fish and other animals.

Prior to the 485 megalitre pulse, approximately 5 megalitres per day had been released from the reservoir over the summer months with the aim of achieving a base flow, with small additional pulses of up to 4 megalitres. Water levels in the Upper Barwon rose temporarily in mid-December after several days of good rainfall. However, lower than average rainfall in January had resulted in cessation of flow between Birregurra and Winchelsea. As a result of the pulse, level gauges in the river have recorded flows recommencing in this reach.

Corangamite CMA have coordinated the release with Barwon Water, thanks to a new 1 gigalitre entitlement of water for the environment established in 2018. This is part of the Victorian Government’s $222 million investment to improve the health of waterways and catchments.

Corangamite CMA and Barwon Water will continue to closely monitor weather and river conditions in the upper Barwon catchment. Corangamite CMA works with community members of the Upper Barwon Surface Water Advisory Group to plan water releases for the environment.

This watering event is in line with Victorian Environmental Water Holder’s Seasonal Watering Plan 2018-19, which is available from www.vewh.vic.gov.au. River and stream level data are publicly accessible through the Victorian Government website data.water.vic.gov.au.