More water supplies needed to protect Victorian rivers

Despite experiencing floods during winter, Victoria still needs alternative water supplies to minimise environmental degradation to rivers as summer approaches, experts warn.

Alternative water supplies are needed to ensure the future health of Victorian rivers, experts say.

September 2010: Flooding of farmland near Myrtleford, Victoria. Photo taken from Stock Journal website.

Melbourne’s water supply is at a five-year high after floods throughout Victoria during winter, which prompted the State Government to lift water restrictions to stage 2 in metropolitan Melbourne last month.

However, Victoria’s largest rivers have failed basic health standards for several years due to drought and high demand for water.

Melbourne’s current population increase of 100,000 a year and predictions of a warmer climate will put more strain on Victoria’s water resources.

“If we don’t have an alternative supply of water that’s climate proof…then more and more stress will be put on taking water out of our rivers to supply Melburnians,” Environment Victoria CEO, Kelly O’Shanassy, said.

The State Government has committed to building a controversial desalination plant in Wonthaggi to secure water supply for Victorians, but does not support potable waste water recycling.

Moorabool River in 2006, receiving 39 per cent of its natural flow. In such conditions rivers cannot sustain wildlife with poor water quality. Photo taken from Geelong Advertiser website.

The Government should not rule out any possible options and instead “assess them on their merits,” independent sustainable water use expert, Dr Grace Mitchell, said.

The Government will also invest $35.3 million over the next year to fund sustainable irrigation projects and improve river health, Minister for Water, Tim Holding, announced in a media release last month.

Graph of storage levels for selected Victoria water storages at the end of August 2010.

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Brianna Piazza

Journalist and travel writer.

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