Water­way un­der con­stant threat

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY DEAN LAW­SON

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.”

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