North-western Victoria was already very dry. Add in 12 years of drought and the area has really been hit hard.
Over the past decade, flows in the Wimmera River have decreased by over 80 percent. In the lower reaches of the river, all that’s left are a few saline pools and dead vegetation. The terminal lakes of Hindmarsh and Albacutya (listed in the Ramsar Convention as an area of importance) have been dry for years. The Dimboola regatta, a highlight of that town’s social calendar for generations, was cancelled three years in a row due to lack of water.
Further south, the news is similar. The Glenelg river was already severely impacted by having its head waters diverted north. While it hasn’t been hit as heavily by climate change, pressure on the river continues to mount. So too the Hopkins and the Gellibrand Rivers, which are being affected by issues such as population growth and water use by plantations, dairy farms and others.
Despite its dry climate, the western region also supported half of the wetland area and 65 percent of the nautrally occuring wetlands in the Victoria at the time of European settlement. Although many of these are short-lived, these wetlands explode into life after heavy rains. They are a vital part of the landscape, but their share of the land has been greatly reduced by drainage and conversion to farmland.
It’s not all bad news
Agricultural practice is changing to accommodate the changing times. While demand is rising, the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline should lead to significant water savings in the north.
The rapidly changing climate in western Victoria puts the region at the forefront of climate change adaptation and water management policy.
The state government has developed the Western Region Sustainable Water Strategy, a key document for discussing issues such as groundwater management, the implications of land use change for water resources, and how we achieve a balance between the needs of our environment and the pressures of development.
We can do better
Environment Victoria is working hard to protect the region’s rivers, wetlands and groundwater dependent ecosystems. We’re pushing for policy reform to better manage land use change, farm dams and stock and domestic bores. We’re also working with local catchment management authorities, environment groups and people across the region to achieve these goals.
Want to know more?
Why not read some of the stories of the people of Western Victoria:
Groundwater in the Otway region
For years Otway Ranges’ local residents have been concerned about the impacts of increased extraction of groundwater in the Otway region – including from aquifers at Barwon Downs and Anglesea. Paddle over here to learn more
The Western Region Sustainable Water Strategy
The draft Western Region Sustainable Water Strategy, which is the state government’s long term plan for water resources in the region, has attracted a lot of interest. DSE has received over 270 submissions expressing a wide range of views, including a large number form local groups and individuals calling for better protection for their rivers. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to grapple with a massive and complex document, and told DSE how important their rivers are.
Environment Victoria’s submission has a strong call to include all currently unaccounted for water use, including stock and domestic use, in the water regulatory framework, and to create environmental entitlements for all the region’s rivers. Check it out here