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Water for the environment refers to water that is reserved to benefit the environment. This doesn't include water taken for:

  • households
  • agriculture
  • industry
  • commerce.

Some water is protected from being used and is left in waterways to benefit the environment. Other environmental water can be released from storages, such as dams or weirs when needed. These releases improve the health of waterways, plants and animals that depend on environmental water.

Releasing available water to mimic natural flows at the right time and for the right duration can achieve many ecological outcomes. High flows provide healthy habitat and support feeding and breeding areas for native species, including:

  • waterbirds
  • frogs
  • fish
  • turtles.

Maintaining at least some low flows in dry times keeps waterways alive.

Water for the environment also supports internationally important wetlands, known as Ramsar Sites.

Water can be provided directly to a wetland using built infrastructure such as pipes and pumps, channels and regulators. Water can also be provided by providing high flows which then flow into wetlands.

Water for the environment can also protect environments dependent on groundwater.

Why we need water for the environment

Water for the environment replaces some of the crucial natural flows that no longer happen due to dams, weirs and use for drinking, industry or agriculture.

Water for the environment can:

  • improve the health and resilience of the environment
  • improve water quality for all
  • respond to climate change challenges
  • support Traditional Owners connection to Country and help heal Country
  • benefit communities by maintaining and improving local waterways for recreation such as fishing, canoeing and birdwatching
  • support the economies of regional and rural areas.

The benefits of a healthy environment

A healthy environment creates social, cultural and economic benefits for local communities.

Water for the environment helps plants and animals in our waterways, catchments and wetlands by supporting:

  • fish
  • water birds
  • aquatic plants
  • vegetation.

Water for the environment supports the growth of plants such as River Red Gums and Black Box. River Red Gums need flooding for their seeds to germinate. These plants support and stabilise riverbanks. This prevents damage to rivers and creeks from floods. They also provide food and shelter for:

  • native insects
  • fish
  • frogs
  • reptiles
  • birds
  • mammals.

Birds and animals well outside the area of flooding benefit too. Flocks of migratory birds quickly descend on recently watered wetlands to feed and breed. Some of the woodland birds our water supports are essential pollinators and controllers of insect pests.

Managed environmental watering can be timed to support migratory fish, too. Pulses of water encourage fish breeding and movement and juvenile fish take advantage of food made available in floodplain wetlands. Many of these fish are important to recreational fishers.

By supporting plant and animal life, it enhances recreational activities such as fishing, camping and boating.

Water for the environment gives our community a healthy place to live.

Page last updated: 08/09/23