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Environmental benefits to flow in Murray-Darling Basin

A new initiative aims to replicate the environmental benefits of large floods in the Murray-Darling Basin without requiring high flows or putting towns at risk.

The Victorian Murray Floodplain Restoration Project (VMFRP) will see work done at nine sites along the Murray River in northern Victoria, including the installation of regulators, pipes and pumps to deliver water more efficiently to wetlands and floodplains.

According to the VMFRP, this will mimic the ecological benefits that natural flood events provide for native fish, birds and plants while using much less water. This will help Victoria meet its obligations under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan without impacting its productive agricultural regions.

The sites, which include Gunbower National Park, Guttrum and Benwell Forests, Nyah and Vinifera Parks, Burra Creek, Belsar-Yungera Island, Hattah Lakes North, and Wallpolla and Lindsay Islands, were chosen for their environmental, social and cultural values, as well as the feasibility of achieving improvements. 

They are part of the agreed package of Sustainable Diversion Limit adjustment projects that will reduce the Basin Plain’s water recovery target by 605 GL. This means the projects will improve the environment without the need for further water buybacks.   

The Victorian Government recently received $29 million in Commonwealth funding to get stage one of the VMFRP underway. This will include designs, approvals, operating and monitoring plans and other pre-construction activities over the next two to three years.

The funding will also provide money for extensive engagement with Indigenous Australians to ensure Aboriginal cultural values are incorporated into the future management of the sites and to guide the next steps for the projects. 

Water Minister Lisa Neville said the VMFRP is about balancing the needs of all water users: the environment, farmers, traditional owners and the community.  

“We’re delivering the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, investing in initiatives that have environmental benefits without negatively impacting our communities,” Neville said

“Our environmental works projects will create millions of dollars of investment in regional Victoria and help deliver real benefits under the Basin Plan by helping to drought-proof our precious floodplains and wetlands without taking more water off farmers.”

The VMFRP will be delivered through a regional partnership coordinated by Lower Murray Water and supported by Goulburn Murray Water, Mallee Catchment Management Authority, North Central Catchment Management Authority and Parks Victoria. 

A decision will be made by the Federal Government whether to fund construction of each of the nine projects at the end of stage one.

Do you have experience to share about the Murray-Darling Basin? Why not submit a paper, panel or workshop on the theme of Rural, Remote & Regional Water for Ozwater’20? To find out more, click here.