More than 40 billion litres of water will be released down the Goulburn River in the first half of January in a repeat of last year’s destructive summer flows.
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority called for the massive water volumes late on Friday, with an announcement buried on the Goulburn-Murray Water website.
The order for inter-valley water transfers follows historically large flows of 50 billion litres in December and 30 billion litres in November, leaving the lower banks of the river already saturated.
This summer’s unseasonal flows are on track to equal or exceed last year’s, which saw a record 433 billion litres of inter-valley transfers forced down the river.
Last year’s high summer flows caused scouring of sandbars and large-scale etching of the lower banks of the river and destroyed bank re-vegetation achieved by previous environmental flows.
To meet the MDBA’s target, the early January flows will need to average 2.6 billion litres a day, once again covering the majority of sandbars enjoyed by campers and holiday-makers along the river.
The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority has previously expressed a wish to maintain summer flows at or under one billion litres a day.
In a late November statement announcing new measures to secure the long-term health of the Goulburn River, Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville noted that “expert advice and community feedback are clear that unseasonably high flows on the lower Goulburn cause environmental damage – destroying vegetation, habitat and river banks.”
Ms Neville said Goulburn-Murray Water and the Goulburn Broken CMA would work with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, as the operator of the river, to deliver these volumes in variable flows that further reduce the risks.
The minister said the government aimed to limit the volume of traded water that could be delivered from the Goulburn to the Murray system to 50 gigalitres a month.