One of Australia’s largest environmental works projects is demonstrating how infrastructure can be used to achieve environmental outcomes in the Murray–Darling Basin.
The $32 million package of works at Hattah Lakes, in north-west Victoria, was officially opened today by Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, and Victorian Minister for Water Peter Walsh.
“The environmental works at Hattah Lakes are a good example of how infrastructure can be used to get better environmental outcomes in the Murray-Darling Basin using less water,” Senator Birmingham said.
“These works will allow us to return a more natural water regime for more than 6000 hectares of River Murray floodplain, without undermining the productive capability of communities in the Basin.
“The Australian Coalition Government has committed to using infrastructure to ‘bridge the gap’ and a 1500GL cap on buybacks, we will focus on projects like this that are a win-win for the environment and communities.
“We will not be using buyback as our first option like the Labor Government, the Australian Coalition want to support communities and economic development,” Senator Birmingham said.
The Hattah Lakes system is located within the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, about 60 kilometres south of Mildura.
The wetlands rely on regular wet and dry periods to be healthy; however, river regulation has altered the frequency and duration of watering events, which has had an impact on the wetland environment.
Minister Walsh said a pump station and a series of regulators had been built to provide a longterm, sustainable solution for effectively and efficiently delivering water to the lakes.
“This type of project ensures the water achieves environmental outcomes most efficiently,” Mr Walsh said.
“Like irrigation, environmental watering needs to involve innovation and smarter watering solutions.
“The concept of undertaking environmental works and measures to provide more water to the environment has been supported by Victoria for some time and the finalisation of the Hattah project is a great example of what can be achieved.
“Operation of this infrastructure will use less water to achieve the same environmental outcomes of a natural flood of more than 100,000 megalitres per day, over a number of months.
“This means we will get the same environmental outcomes without needing to take significant amounts of water out of productive use. We will also remove the need to have significant amounts of water in the river system, which could have third party impacts
“The infrastructure will be used to deliver water to fill the lakes every two to three years, with more extensive watering to reach the floodplain every eight to ten years, subject to natural cues and water availability.
“Approximately half the water used in the more extensive managed waterings will be returned to the River Murray,” Mr Walsh said.
The newly-constructed infrastructure performs three core functions to increase the frequency, duration and extent of watering events at Hattah Lakes by:
• making it possible to top up natural floods to increase water levels in the lakes system;
• pumping water into the system when river flows are not able to naturally reach the lakes; and
• holding water in the system to maximise the ecological benefits of watering events.
The Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) coordinated the Hattah Lakes environmental works project, on behalf of the Victorian Government, Murray–Darling Basin Authority and the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries, and in partnership with Parks
Victoria. Construction works were undertaken by Goulburn-Murray Water.
Funding was provided through The Living Murray program, which is a joint initiative funded by the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian, Australian Capital Territory and the Commonwealth governments, coordinated by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.
For more information on the Hattah Lakes project, visit the Mallee CMA website at www.malleecma.vic.gov.au