January 2014

Release of Victoria's draft water bill

24.01.2014 - Posted by Mark Stacey
The Victorian Government has now launched the public consultation phase of their Water Bill review. The recently released Water Bill Exposure Draft proposes to consolidate the Water Act 1989 and Water Industry Act 1994 into a single, streamlined Water Act. This new Water Act will reflect contemporary practice in water management and government policy and is intended to be introduced to Parliament in 2014, to commence on 1 January 2016.

The public consultation involves a series of public forums across Victoria from 29 January to 7 February 2014. Public submissions will be accepted until 5pm on Friday 14 February 2014. Those interested in participating will find a copy of the Water Bill Exposure Draft, an Explanatory Guide and other supporting information at Living Victoria.     

Image from the Victorian Environmental Water Holder

CEWH’s first environmental water trade

20.01.2014 - Posted by Mark Stacey
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) today announced a plan to sell 10 gigalitres of water back to irrigators in the Murray Darling Basin. Hearing this on breaky news this morning my first reaction was not positive – thoughts of wasted effort, lost momentum, and a quick grab for cash immediately filled my mind. Fortunately, now the details have been released I can see how this is an important step forward for environmental water management.

The first thing to note is that this sale only includes a small proportion of the CEWH’s annual allocations, not their permanent water entitlements (for those not familiar with these terms, an analogy is to equate an entitlement to an annual salary, and an allocation to deposits in the bank). At the start of 2014 the CEWH’s water allocation totalled 864 GL, acquired through their entitlement of 1,704 GL. The 10 GL sale (0.02 Sydharbs in layman’s terms) therefore represents just over 1% of their available water and is valued at about $1.4 million at the going rate. According to the CEWH this water is not required to meet this season’s watering plan and will provide greater environmental benefit in future years.

The sale is also an important milestone for the water market - it is the first time the CEWH has traded environmental water since its inception in 2008. Australia’s waterways have adapted to some of the most extreme variability in the world, presenting major challenges to managing these systems within a water market that was designed to provide consistent and reliable irrigation supplies. With this in mind trading has an important role to play in accommodating variability - temporarily selling water when it’s not needed to purchase when it is. Seen in this light the CEWH’s sale today represents an important step forward and efficient use of our limited water resources.

Gwydir Wetlands following environmental watering, New South Wales (image sourced from Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder)

Livingston Creek restoration

17.01.2014 - Posted by Clare Ferguson
In early December I attended the official opening of the flood recovery works in Livingstone Park, Omeo, in Victoria’s High Country. Livingstone Creek flows through the park and experienced significant erosion during flooding in mid 2012. Ross Hardie and I designed the flood recovery works (which consisted of three rock chutes, two grass chutes and a series of rock bars), sub-consultants Ethos NRM designed the revegetation program and Stuart Cleven oversaw the construction of the works. The project was run through a partnership between the East Gippsland Shire Council and the North East Catchment Management Authority.

The event was attended by a number of representatives from the CMA, Council, Omeo community, the local primary school and the various contractors who were involved in construction. The speeches highlighted the importance of the successful partnership between the Council and CMA, and how well the two agencies involved the community throughout the project. The mayor commented that while they had expected to get a flood recovery project, they instead got a river improvement project.

After the formal proceedings, CMA and Council staff led the Councillors, community members and  guests for a tour of the park where we explained the different components of the works. As we walked along beside the creek, the group commented on how lovely it was to hear the water flowing over the rock chutes, how they could hear that the frogs had returned, and that fish had been seen in a pool created by one of the rock chutes (which means they’d travelled up two of the three rock chutes to get there). The school children proudly told us how they’d planted thousands of trees as part of the revegetation component of the project.

It’s clearly a special place for the local community, and they were alarmed to see how damaged the creek was when the flood waters receded last year. It really was special to have helped them restore their creek and park, and to join them in celebrating this.

If you find yourself passing through Omeo in the future, make sure you stop off and wander down to Livy Creek!

Vist the Alluvium website for more informaiton.

Before - Looking downstream from the bridge in Livingston Park before flood restoration works in October 2012

After - Looking downstream from the bridge in Livingstone Park after flood restoration works December 2013