Yarra to benefit from environmental water release

Platypus, water bugs and several fish species that call Melbourne’s iconic Yarra River home will all benefit from the release of environmental water in late January 2017.

Melbourne Water, in partnership with the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH), will release up to 4 billion litres of water from the Upper Yarra and Maroondah Reservoirs, with the peak of the release occurring between 29 January and 3 February.

Otherwise known as a ‘summer fresh’, the release aims to mimic a river’s natural process by maintaining water quality, flushing sediment and organic material from the river bed, maintaining habitat for bugs and fish life, and ensuring native vegetation along the river bank receives enough water when the river is otherwise low.​

This release will improve the availability and quality of habitat for the river’s many endangered aquatic inhabitants including Australian grayling, Macquarie Perch, river blackfish, platypus and waterbugs including dragonflies, damselflies, caddisflies and diving beetles.

Melbourne Water Regional Services Manager – North East Kate Nagato said releasing environmental water delivers many benefits, as the river can get stressed during summer when heat combines with the impacts of urbanisation.

"As Melbourne and the surrounding region have grown over the past two centuries, water has been diverted away from the Yarra River for drinking water, irrigation and use by industry,” Ms Nagato said.

As waterway manager, Melbourne Water works with the Victorian Environmental Water Holder to carefully plan and target the release of environmental water from dams. We do this in a way which helps the native plants and animals that call the Yarra home to cope with the pressures of urbanisation.

The environmental water release will also improve the overall amenity of one of Melbourne’s greatest community assets.

”This release will deliver great social benefits by improving conditions for everyone who enjoys the Yarra, particularly those engaged in fishing, camping and canoeing. Improving water quality also delivers indirect economic benefits to irrigators and urban water supply,” said Ms Nagato.

This water is part of the Yarra River’s annual environmental allocation that is dedicated to maintaining the important environmental values in Melbourne’s iconic waterway.

During this release, river levels through the Warrandyte and Healesville townships and along the Watts River could rise up to between 40-60 cm, which is within the river’s usual level of variance. Detailed planning and close monitoring of water levels will be undertaken during the entire release period.

Melbourne Water is working with the VEWH and other stakeholders to monitor the response of the river and aquatic life closely following the event to inform future releases. The VEWH prioritised this water release as part of its Seasonal Watering Plan 2016-17, which aims to improve river and wetland health across Victoria.


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