Water for wetlands

By Country News

Up to 5.1Gl of environmental flows are set to make their way to wetlands in northern Victoria in a bid to bolster the health of fish and water quality in a number of wetlands.

The flows to five Loddon Murray wetlands — Lake Murphy, Johnson Swamp, the Wirra-Lo Wetland Complex, Round Lake and Lake Elizabeth — will take place in the coming weeks.

In the past three decades, bird numbers across the Murray-Darling Basin have declined by more than 70 per cent, as a changed landscape, introduced predators and climate change take their toll.

North Central Catchment Management Authority environmental flows project manager Darren White said the flows would help to provide a refuge for native and migratory birds.

‘‘Managing (the wetlands) with fluctuating water levels over the years means they are productive and attract birds of all kinds, including those that like high and low levels of water,’’ he said.

‘‘We know these wetlands were home to a lot of birds coming down from NSW over the spring breeding season, and it’s important they remain healthy to help the new generation of birds thrive and survive.

‘‘We have seen birds such as the endangered Australasian bittern and brolga breeding and feeding in these wetlands.’’

The North Central CMA will manage a series of small flows to the five Loddon Murray wetlands with flows mostly to be top-ups or water to prime the wetland in preparation for spring, according to Mr White.

‘‘At Lake Elizabeth and Round Lake the water will be delivered to manage salinity levels for the endangered small-bodied Murray hardyhead fish,’’ Mr White said.

‘‘It’s important that wetlands receive water, when possible, during dry conditions.

‘‘Many of the state’s rivers, floodplains and wetlands constantly experience an artificial drought because of river regulation and population growth.

‘‘This means that even when it is wet, they get less water than they would have naturally, as water is held back and stored, and up to half of it is removed for farms, towns and businesses. This impact is even greater when conditions are dry.’’