Flows to better forest

By Country News

Up to 82Gl of water is set to be sent down the lower Gunbower Creek in the coming months to improve the quality of the forest and wetlands.

The environmental flows, which will take place between now and early November, will be delivered through the Gunbower Forest via the Hipwell Rd Channel and regulators along the lower Gunbower Creek.

Up to 750Ml a day will flow through the system during the off-irrigation season, with up to 800Ml a day for five days during this period to test capacity of in-forest waterways.

North Central Catchment Management Authority acting project manager Genevieve Smith said the Gunbower Forest included diverse plant and animal life.

‘‘This year’s delivery of water for the environment will water about 3000ha of forest and use less than the first delivery in 2014 (109Gl),’’ she said.

‘‘It’s home to many endangered plants and animals, such as the giant banjo frog and intermediate egret, and is an important seed bank for other wetlands downstream. It also contains significant sites of Aboriginal and European cultural heritage.’’

However, river regulation and a changing climate have meant that natural floods occur less frequently, are typically smaller and often don’t last long enough to fully replenish the forest’s water needs, according to the authority.

‘‘Without the ability to deliver water for the environment, many of the rare plants and animals in the forest will disappear, as the time between drinks stretches beyond their tolerance for dry periods,’’ Ms Smith said.

Water supply to irrigators will not be affected by the flow and most of the forest will remain open.

‘‘Most of the water will be delivered in the off-irrigation season, and during irrigation season we will continue to deliver water for the environment to the forest at lower flow rates to accommodate for irrigation demand in Gunbower Creek,’’ Ms Smith said.

Access to parts of the forest may be temporarily restricted during winter and spring due to water across access tracks, with updates to be posted on the DELWP Facebook page.