Record high inter-valley water transfers have wrecked havoc on the Goulburn River and threaten to undo years of environmental work according to a local water authority.
The high level of the Goulburn River has been a big talking point in recent months, as large volumes of water are traded down the river towards South Australia.
Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority’s Chris Norman said he shared the community’s concerns.
‘‘Inter-valley transfers can benefit our catchment’s waterways if the water is delivered at the right time and at the right rate,’’ Mr Norman said.
‘‘However, Goulburn Broken CMA shared the community’s concern that, because IVTs in 2018 and 2019 were delivered as high unseasonal flows (between 2000Ml/day and 3000Ml/day) at a constant rate, over many months, at a time of the year when river flows would normally be far lower (around 900Ml/day), they affected vegetation and the banks of the Goulburn River.
‘‘This is disappointing as deliveries of water for the environment for the Goulburn River over the past five-plus years had seen improved bank-stabilising plant growth as well as increased native fish movement and breeding of threatened silver perch, golden perch and Murray cod.’’
Local politicians including Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed and Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum have been highly critical of the levels of the Goulburn River.
Ms Sheed said it was a matter she would bring up with Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville when she visited the region next month.
‘‘The fact is our Victorian iconic Goulburn River is being significantly damaged by the high flows that are required to transfer water to the Sunraysia region and South Australia,’’ Ms Sheed said.
‘‘It is time for the Victorian Government to take action and I have called on the Minister for Water Lisa Neville to use her powers under the Water Trading Rules to limit these inter-valley transfers. She has the power to do so and I believe that she is required to do so where there are such obvious negative environmental and third-party impacts.’’
The Goulburn Broken CMA is planning to deliver water for the environment during July and August in a bid to provide sediment and seed to help restore bank-stabilising vegetation on the lower and mid bank of the Goulburn River.
‘‘Encouraging plant growth will go some way towards reducing the impact of the high unseasonal flows along parts of the river. This vegetation also provides valuable habitat for native fish, water bugs and other wildlife to feed, breed and shelter,’’ Mr Norman said.
‘‘If this year’s winter environmental flow goes ahead it will be delivered between July 3 and August 2, peaking at 9500Ml/day at Murchison on July 10. This year the environmental flow will be delivered so it recedes very slowly, which is better for the river bank.’’
Although heavy rain may see the flow reduced or not go ahead at all, Mr Norman said this year’s winter environmental flow may be the main environmental water delivered if conditions remained dry and a low allocation was announced.