River flows vital

By Country News

There appears to be confusion as to the cause of the environmental damage being done by unnaturally high flows along the Goulburn and Murray rivers.

This damage is not being caused by the transfer of environmental water, or for that matter the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, but by the transfer of irrigation water downstream to predominately horticulture enterprises between the Barmah Choke and the lower Murray.

Near record deliveries have been required in response to recent extremely dry conditions and the transfer of water entitlements into these zones.

It is understood that various studies are under way to determine if damage has been done and, if so, the extent of the damage along these critical river reaches.

However, it is well understood that maximising the benefits of environmental water can be realised if constraints on the Goulburn River are removed to allow safe delivery of up to 25000Ml/day (minor flood level) at Shepparton.

The removal of constraints will also provide water managers with greater flexibility to use environmental water when it is required — normally early in the irrigation season — thereby increasing storage capacity for irrigators and alleviating the confusion surrounding the causes of any damage being done within river channels.

The health of our river and our wetlands relies on the wetting of river flats and connecting not just our key wetlands, but the thousands of other smaller wetlands and depressions along the length of the Goulburn River.

We know we can connect our local wetlands such as Gemmills and Reedy swamps and Loch Garry with these flows, and in doing so also connect to the river flats and other wetlands and depressions.

The Goulburn River must be allowed to connect with wetlands and floodplains, so it can continue its vital role of:

■Assisting flood-dependent vegetation in forests and wetlands, particularly in the mid to lower ends of river systems.

■Improving the capacity of rivers, floodplains and wetlands to recover after droughts or floods.

■Recharging soil moisture and improving fertility of the soil.

■Providing habitat and cues for fish and bird breeding and pollination services and countless other ecosystem services.

■Improving water quality by flushing saline pools and by reducing the frequency and severity of blackwater events.

The Goulburn River is critical to our productive future and the wellbeing of our communities.

—Terry Court