Water Needed for Rivers, Wetlands as Floods Subside

Dept of Climate Change, Energy, Environment & Water

Delivering water for the environment plays a critical role in the survival of fish and birds as floodwaters begin to recede in some areas of the Murray-Darling Basin.

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, Dr Simon Banks, said as we celebrate World Wetlands Day, a run of back-to-back wet years has refreshed the landscape across the Basin helping to revive wetlands.

"While the wet conditions and flooding have created challenges for a lot of people, natural flows in our rivers have kick started fish and bird breeding cycles and saved millions of trees that were hanging on for a drink, Dr Banks said.

"Natural flows have helped 'reset' conditions, setting a great foundation for environmental water managers to build on and ensure we have resilient rivers and wetlands for when the dry times return.

Water for the environment has been used in the Edward-Kolety Wakool and Murrumbidgee rivers to help native fish survive low-oxygen blackwater caused by natural flooding.

Waterbirds are breeding in the tens of thousands across the Basin. Water for the environment is being used in the Gwydir and Murrumbidgee valleys to make sure water is still under nests as floodwaters recede, protecting fledglings from predators and providing a food source to maximise breeding success.

Water for the environment is also being delivered in the Murray valley to help fish migration and bird breeding at Barmah-Millewa Forest, which is a Ramsar site of international importance.

While these positive responses are encouraging, it is important to put them into perspective. Waterbird populations have declined over the last 40 years, and native fish populations are well below historical levels.

To continue to protect and restore the natural environment the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder is collaborating and engaging with all sectors.

"To keep rivers healthy, environmental water managers, First Nations peoples, scientists, communities and landholders work hard every year to build resilience into river systems for future droughts," Dr Banks said.

"This work boosts wetland health in between natural flooding events, which don't occur as often as they used to.

"Over the coming months water for the environment will be used across the Basin to support fish migration, connectivity and to top up wetlands where needed."

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