Dam removal improves habitat for vulnerable fish in Deep Creek

Habitat for native animals in Deep Creek, including the vulnerable Yarra Pygmy Perch, has been improved through Melbourne Water’s Rural Land Program by decommissioning an unused dam at the top of the catchment.

The Deep Creek catchment is unique in the way the Creek receives water: Rain that falls in the catchment filters into groundwater and makes its way to the creek. Many native species rely on this flow from the groundwater for their habitat and ongoing survival.

The dam was located on a private property near the township of Newham which is in the upper reaches of the Deep Creek catchment.

The large number of dams in the area means much of the water stored on private properties is lost to evaporation and large volumes are held back from entering the groundwater and Deep Creek. This results in a reduction of flows to the groundwater and limited recharging of water to important downstream aquatic habitat.

Melbourne Water Waterways and Land Team Leader (West) Ben English said the property owners, who are active members of the local Landcare Group, were happy to see their unused dam decommissioned.

“The landholders previously used the dam to water stock on the property, but they now use more reliable, non-evaporative water sources and no longer require the dam,” he said.

When they were advised about the ecological benefits of decommissioning the dam and the support Melbourne Water could provide, they were happy to undertake the project.

Melbourne Water shared costs with the land owner for the decommissioning work as well as the planting of new native trees, shrubs and grasses for the site. This will increase native groundcover and improve water quality in the Creek.

The works took place over 2016 and 2017 under Melbourne Water’s Rural Land Program, which provides assistance and funding opportunities for landholders to undertake works that provide environmental benefits for surrounding waterways.

“As expected, the decommissioning has enabled flows to go back to the groundwater which would have otherwise been stored and exposed to significant evaporation. The land now absorbs and filters water for the creek, as it once would have done naturally.”

The Yarra Pygmy Perch, which is nationally listed as a ‘vulnerable’ species takes refuge in pools along Deep Creek, and is dependent on continual groundwater flows for its habitat and ultimately, its survival.

“The area has been returned to a more natural state with native habitat and is more likely to help feed the groundwater source again and provide benefits to Deep Creek for many years to come”.