Posted on 22. Jul, 2010 in Greening Victoria

Melbourne’s improved water security from the Government’s water projects, conservation and better rainfall will see a further 22 billion litres of environmental water returned to the Yarra and Thomson rivers earlier than planned, Water Minister Tim Holding announced today.  

Each year an additional 10 billion litres of water will be returned to the Yarra River and 12 billion litres to the Thomson River. This is in addition to the 7 billion litres returned to the Yarra and 3 billion litres returned to the Thomson in April.

Mr Holding said this water meant environmental flows for both rivers would be restored to levels that they have historically been.

“The Victorian Government has taken the tough decisions to deliver our Water Plan to provide more water for Victoria’s rivers, farmers and households,” Mr Holding said.

“To ensure Melbourne didn’t run out of water during the longest drought on record, the Government diverted additional water from the Yarra and Thomson rivers.

“As a result of our Government’s unprecedented investment in water projects we are pulling Melburnians and regional Victorians away from severe water restrictions and more water can be returned to our rivers.

“The big difference for Melbourne is the certainty we have from our new water sources. We’ve reconnected the Tarago Reservoir, built the Sugarloaf Pipeline and the desalination plant will begin supplying water from the end of next year.

“While the overall condition of the Yarra is good, increased flows will further enhance the river’s health after long years of drought. As Melbourne’s most important natural feature, we need to ensure that the Yarra can continue to be used and enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.”

The environmental flows were not due to be returned until water restrictions in Melbourne were eased to Stage 2. Melbourne remains on Stage 3 water restrictions.

The Yarra River has historically provided about 70 per cent of Melbourne’s drinking water, which is harvested primarily into the Upper Yarra, Sugarloaf and O’Shannassy Reservoirs. The remaining 30 per cent comes mostly from the Thomson River.

Melbourne’s water storages are currently 35.5 per cent of capacity or more than 150 billion litres better off compared to the same time last year when they were 26.9 per cent.

Mr Holding said Melbourne Water would begin releasing the additional flows at optimum times to improve the health of both of these iconic rivers. 

“These are literally life-giving flows that will help sustain the complex ecosystems and improve water quality for the Yarra and Thomson Rivers,” Mr Holding said. 

The Government will also provide an additional 24 billion litres of water to the rivers when Melbourne returns to Stage 1 water restrictions.

Mr Holding joined Fisheries Victoria officers in releasing six Macquarie perch into the Yarra River at Warrandyte, as part of a breeding program to boost stocks of the endangered native species.

“Research by Melbourne Water suggests that in late-2009, higher flows in the Yarra led to spawning of Macquarie perch, the first evidence of young Australian grayling in seven years as well as a strengthening platypus population,” he said.

“The Yarra River population of Macquarie perch is one of a few remaining strong populations and Fisheries Victoria is undertaking a breeding program to further bolster their stocks.”

Today’s announcement builds on other initiatives to return water to Victoria’s rivers including:

  • Victoria has exceeded its Living Murray Target of 214 billion litres of water for the Murray River, far more than any other Murray-Darling Basin state;
  • 83 billion litres of water saved from the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline is being returned to the region’s river systems including the Wimmera River and the Murray River system as environmental flows; and
  • The Food Bowl Modernisation Project will provide 175 billion litres of water saved from irrigation upgrades to rivers and wetlands in northern Victoria.

Please go to http://www.ourwater.vic.gov.au/ for more information.

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