March 2012 Newsletter

Lachlan Water Sharing Plan Audit

Water Sharing Plans are required to be audited at least every 5 years to determine whether the Plans are being implemented. The Lachlan Water Sharing Plan progress report 2004-2008 has recently been released by the NSW Office of Water.

The progress report indicates that despite the suspension of the Plan, there has been significant progress in implementing the Plan rules. The report found that while no Environmental Contingency Allowances were released during 2004-08, water was made available to the environment under the drought management arrangements. Releases of 5.5 GL into Merrowie Creek and 905 ML into Lake Brewster were made in 2005 to support major bird breeding events. A further 5 GL was delivered in an attempt to water the Murrumbidgil Swamp.

In 2007, a total of 7 GL was delivered to Brewster Weir to the benefit of the riverine environment.

WYANGALA DAM SPILLS

Wyangala Dam spill (Photo: Casey Proctor, LCMA, 2012)

Wyangala Dam spill (Photo: Casey Proctor, LCMA, 2012)

Allocation

Water allocations have been equalised (or reset) as a result of the Dam spill. The Lachlan Water Sharing Plan states that: “when Wyangala Dam spills ….. and Lake Brewster and Lake Cargelligo are full or will fill,…. all general security access licence accounts will be equalised. Assessments indicate that when Wyangala Dam, Lake Brewster and Lake Cargelligo are full it should be possible for each general security access licence account to hold a maximum 1.36 megalitres per unit share.”

This now means there is 165,671 ML General Security and 1,733 ML High Security in licenced accounts for environmental purposes.

The translucency window is between 15 May and 15 November and the recent large inflows to Wyangala have already surpassed the inflow threshold to trigger translucent releases if there are further inflows during the translucency window.
Wyangala Dam spill (Photo: Casey Proctor, LCMA, 2012)

Cultural Water

Rivers, floodplains, billabongs, marshes, swamps, lakes and mud flats have traditionally been sources of water and food,as well as traditional medicine plants for Aboriginal people. The waterways also provide travel routes, particularly in the summer months or during periods of drought.

Being able to use natural resources and maintain the strong spiritual links to the landscape is known to be important to Aboriginal people. In recognising this, the NSW Office of Water ran a series of workshops for Aboriginal communities throughout inland NSW and the north coast to consult on water sharing plans. The workshops were held to help Aboriginal communities to understand the water sharing plan process and make informed decisions, as well as provide feedback on how the plans will impact on their communities.

NSW Office of Water, as part of their cultural water program, invited members of the Aboriginal community, including those from within the Lachlan, to participate in workshops. These workshops not only aimed to increase understanding of water sharing plans but also identify water dependent cultural assets.
The process also has resulted in the development of a resource package to assist Aboriginal communities to understand and further develop their cultural water planning process. More meetings are scheduled to be held in the Lachlan to further develop the cultural asset list for the region. The LRWG hope to work closely with Aboriginal communities in developing and integrating the cultural asset list with existing targets for environmental water.

LRWG meeting at Booberoi Creek 2011

LRWG meeting at Booberoi Creek 2011

Other factors that may assist in this process is research into what cultural water means to Aboriginal people connected to the Lachlan. A component of this has been implemented at Murrin Bridge with Water Dynamics from Griffith working with that community to increase water efficiency. The use of traditional knowledge in the decision-making process with regard to environmental water also needs to be further explored, as does the difficulties associated with cultural site prioritisation. Cultural water is referred to as native title water rights in the Lachlan Water Sharing Plan and there is currently no allocation for this purpose.


Available Environmental Water as at March 2012

The table below indicates volumes of environmental water that is available for use from March 2012 to June 2012. The amount of water that can be taken this water year is 100% of entitlements (121,818ML GS and 1,733ML HS) less any volumes already used this year (27,551ML) and water traded from the Riverbank account (2,000ML GS). Unused allocation will be carried over to the next water year. Decisions regarding the use of licenced water for environmental purposes will be informed by the amount of water available, the the need of priority water-dependent targets and antecedent climatic conditions. Planned environmental water delivery is guided by the Lachlan Water Sharing Plan.

Summary of environmental water available for this water year as of March 2012

Type

Volume in Account Volume used this water year
Commonwealth licenced water – for environmental purposes

115,938 ML

27,551 ML

Riverbank

33,413 ML

Lake Brewster Adaptive Environmental Water 16,320 ML

0 ML

Planned Environmental Water

20,000 ML ECA; 20,000 ML WQA

0 ML

Commonwealth release ‘Environmental Water Delivery: Lachlan River’

Download Environmental Water Delivery Lachlan River report

Download Environmental Water Delivery Lachlan River

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) has registered entitlements of 85,249 ML of general security and 733 ML high security water available for environmental purposes in the Lachlan River catchment. This volume of water held for environmental purposes is required to be managed, along with all forms of environmental water, in an efficient and integrated manner. The outcomes of environmental water delivery also needs to be monitored, evaluated and reported on.

To assist in this process the CEWH has prepared ’Environmental Water Delivery: Lachlan River’ to provide information on the environmental assets and potential environmental water use in the Lachlan River catchment. The document collates current knowledge of the operational and administrative arrangements for the delivery of environmental water to the Lachlan River. It also provides an overview of the environmental assets and options for potential environmental water use within the catchment. This work has been undertaken to support the efficient and effective use of environmental water and to engage communities on how this may best be achieved.The full document can be downloaded from the CEWH website at http://www.environment.gov.au/ewater/publications/ewater-delivery-lachlan-river.html

The first version of ’Environmental Water Delivery: Lachlan River’is intended to provide a starting point for discussions on environmental water use in the Lachlan, with suggestions and feedback on the document welcomed. These discussions aim to obtain feedback from the community on the use of environmental water, identify future opportunities and recognise operational risks and constraints when delivering environmental water in the Lachlan. Over time, this feedback will be used to inform planning for environmental water use and future iterations of the document.

Comments on the document are encouraged and can be provided to: ewater@environment.gov.au.

PROJECT UPDATE

Charles Sturt University Frog Study in the Lachlan

Spotted marsh frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis) found in the Lake Brewster outflow wetland summer 2010/11(Photo: Paul packard OEH)

Spotted marsh frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis) found in the Lake Brewster outflow wetland summer 2010/11(Photo: Paul packard OEH)

Several species of wetland frog have declined over the past decade through the Murray Darling Basin. The Lachlan catchment contains a number of important frog species, and historically supported the endangered southern bell frog although its current status in the region is unknown. Flow regulation, drought and introduced fish pose a serious threat to frog communities, however studies have demonstrated that environmental releases can be a useful tool for maintaining resilient frog communities.

This project is a collaborative study between Office of Environment and Heritage scientists, Lachlan environmental water managers and Dr Skye Wassens and PhD Student Carmen Amos, based at Charles Sturt University. The objectives of this study are to identify the water requirements of frogs within the Lachlan catchment and to describe how they respond during and following environmental releases. It is hoped that this work will help to identify habitat and hydrological regimes important for frogs through the catchment and to identify priority areas and species within the Lachlan Catchment for targeted management.

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Written by Joanne Lenehan