THE annual plan to best determine where water for the environment might best be delivered in the year ahead has been released.
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) recently released its Water Management Plan for 2021-22 after working with local communities, First Nations, scientists and water managers to prioritise sites and work on a way forward.
The office said even with recent wet conditions, water for the environment still played an important role in helping to keep rivers and wetlands healthy in the Murrumbidgee valley.
Interim Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, Hilton Taylor, said following the wet weather in winter, the two major dams in the Murrumbidgee valley were full and had started to spill.
"While many welcome the wet conditions, we know flood conditions in the Murrumbidgee are posing potential risks to people, farms and animals," he said.
"This is nature working overtime and we certainly don't add any extra water to these high flows.
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"We originally had planned to deliver water to the mid-Murrumbidgee wetlands in winter, but natural flows are doing this job now.
"These wetlands need water every year, but last had a drink in 2017.
"As a result, the wetlands and native plants and animals dependant on them are in poor condition. We are taking advantage of the wet conditions by setting aside some water to top-up these wetlands next autumn to continue their recovery."
CEWO Local Engagement Officer Michele Groat lives and works in the Murrumbidgee area and said getting water out onto the floodplain and into wetlands was critical to keeping them healthy so they provide habitat for plants and animals.
This includes internationally listed migratory waterbirds and threatened frog, bird and fish species such as Golden perch.
"We've been having some recent success with Golden perch breeding in the lower Murrumbidgee wetlands," she said.
"We're hoping to build on that this year by providing flows that allow Golden perch to move from the wetlands back into the river and migrate throughout the valley."
Although rainfall and natural high flows are bringing much-needed relief to many wetlands, natural flooding can potentially cause hypoxic, or low-oxygen, blackwater events.
"Wetter conditions present both opportunities and risks," Ms Groat said.
"If natural flooding results in low-oxygen blackwater events, we are prepared to provide refuge habitat for wildlife where we can by delivering water for the environment."
Details of when and where Commonwealth water may be used in the Murrumbidgee can be found in the Water Management Plan for 2021-22, which available on the CEWO website or by contacting Ms Groat on 0427 682 309 or Erin Lennon on 0417 965 714.
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