The Weekly Advertiser Horsham

SOAKED UP AND FLOWING:

- Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Dimboola Rowing Club committee member John Holman and his dog ‘Bruce’ take note of a full Dimboola weir pool as water flows along the Wimmera River. Mr Holman observed the river level rising about a metre after rain. Downpours in the catchment in the past month have led to significan­t run-off in the catchment with water in the river reaching Jeparit and spilling into a dry Lake Hindmarsh.

Water is spilling from the Wimmera River into Lake Hindmarsh as the region takes a mighty ‘swig’ of consistent winter rain and run-off.

Water began tipping over Jeparit weir and pooling in the lake’s mouth yesterday morning as the waterway’s seven feeder tributarie­s sent millions of litres north to a terminally thirsty lower catchment.

Water is also flowing into the region’s headworks reservoirs, further shoring up supply and potentiall­y opening fresh recreation-supply opportunit­ies pending assessment­s in the next two months.

Gwmwater storage manager Kym Wilson said a reservoir catchment area recorded close to or slightly above average rain figures for July, following a similarly damp June.

“The highest total we’ve seen is at Lake Bellfield at Halls Gap where it’s been just shy of 160 millimetre­s and this has led to good inflow and consistent increases each week into reservoirs,” he said.

“The catchments are fully saturated, which is exactly where we want it to be this time of year. It means that every time it rains the water flows.”

Mr Wilson said for July alone Wimmera storages collected 4.5 percent of the system’s overall capacity or 25,000 megalitres.

But he was also quick to put the inflow into perspectiv­e.

“Interestin­gly, that is only 70 percent of historic July inflow and that’s the consistent story we’ve seen in recent years,” he said.

“Still, with storages at 35 percent, we are slightly ahead of where we were a year ago and we would need quite a bit more rain and a couple more wet months to fill the major reservoirs. There is quite a bit of space to fill yet.”

Wimmera Catchment Management Authority is closely monitoring the progress of natural river flows, which depending on location range is from about 200 to 800 million litres a day.

Authority chief executive David Brennan said the flows were ‘very’ encouragin­g and would have an enormous effect on river and riparian environmen­tal health pushing into spring.

“We have good flows going past Glenorchy of between 500 and 600 megalitres a day, for example, and the water is working through the system with little loss,” he said.

“All of the aquatic wildlife areas relying on a healthy river will get a massive boost and we’ve already noticed that salinity levels have dropped right out.

“It’s been many years – 10 to 15 years – since we’ve had this type of rain in July, when everything is wet. Flow events in the river have occurred in drying summers so it’s nice to get some decent flows in the cooler months.

“This water represents a cue for plants and animals, providing habitat and food to get the whole food-chain going through spring. That will ultimately affect social community health along the river. It’s a real boost.”

Mr Brennan said the natural flows had allowed the authority to hold off on artificial­ly watering the river with environmen­tal flows.

“It’s very fortunate. We haven’t needed to use any environmen­tal water since it started raining and won’t need to in the foreseeabl­e weeks, which is a great outcome in its own right,” he said.

“It’s such a drastic change because we had such a dry autumn and a blackwater threat in the river that required us to up the ante with environmen­tal water. Now the system is doing it on its own.

“Fingers crossed it keeps raining to recharge all our wetlands, lakes and rivers.”

Flowing water has raised speculatio­n about the opportunit­y of supply for more recreation lakes such as Green Lake, southeast of Horsham.

Mr Wilson said the amount of water flowing into major reservoirs during the next two months would determine watering opportunit­ies.

“With more water flows into the major reservoirs comes more flexibilit­y in where we can spread water across the system,” he said.

“In terms of reservoir inflows, we’re well ahead of last year. It looks really positive and with regular rain in the catchments we will see water continue to flow into reservoirs and down rivers and creeks.”

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