Waterway under constant threat
Aregional catchment leader has warned that the Wimmera might in the future experience similar environmental devastation that has occurred in New South Wale’s Darling River system.
Wimmera Catchment Management Authority chief executive David Brennan said it was inevitable, in a dryer and hotter future, that sections of the Wimmera River system would come under serious stress.
“What’s happened in the Darling River and Menindee Lakes is a reminder that we are also part of the Murray Darling Basin and when there is a lack of water in the basin the environment becomes stressed and vulnerable,” he said.
“If dry seasons persist and considering what is predicted with climate change, what has happened in NSW will likely, at some stage, happen in the Wimmera.
“We’ve already seen something similar occur in the Wimmera River’s lower catchment in the past, during the millennium drought.
“Considering the Wimmera River is expansive and close to 300 kilometres in length, we are not immune.”
But Mr Brennan was quick to add the Wimmera catchment was one of the best equipped in Australia to work on mitigating the impact of severe environmental conditions.
He said a combination of water assets, infrastructure and a collaborative bond between agencies and communities represented a strong defensive position.
“From a management perspective we’re very conservative with how we use water and always aware that the next major drought is only around the corner,” he said.
“We have good management of storages by Gwmwater and critically, the water-saving Wimmera-mallee Pipeline is doing a lot of heavy lifting in preventing the scenarios that are happening in NSW.”
Mr Brennan was responding to questions about whether the Wimmera River system was at risk of similar conditions that led to a mass algal bloom and dramatic fish kill on the Darling River.
“Of course we are. It’s ugly but it’s a reality,” he said.
“As management organisations and communities we can only do so much and despite our efforts we are, frustratingly, often simply at the mercy of nature.
“It can leave everything and everyone very vulnerable.
“What’s happened in NSW clearly tells us how valuable water is to having a healthy river system. At the same time, it is a warning that devastation could accompany any drought.”
Mr Brennan said the NSW circumstances also galvanised an appreciation of Wimmera lakes and waterways and he encouraged people to make the most of regional water assets.
“We’re not technically in drought here and although we’ve had our own outbreaks of blue-green algae we are in a relatively good environmental position,” he said.
“We could, as always, do with some rain.
“The environment is there to enjoy and we should make the most of what we have at the moment.”