Media Releases | 2nd Mar, 2006

Melbourne’s rivers at risk

Thursday, 2 March 2006

Victoria’s leading environment group calls on the Victorian Government to abandon plans to suck billions of extra litres of water from Melbourne’s already-degraded river systems.

The first ever Sustainable Water Strategy – with a draft due for release next month – will decide the fate of the Yarra, Maribyrnong, Werribee, Barwon, Moorabool, Thomson and Macalister rivers.

Environment Victoria’s Healthy Rivers director Dr Paul Sinclair said water authorities were planning to take even more water than they currently use from our thirsty rivers.

Source: State Water Report 2003-4      DSE Water taken 2003/4       Amount that could be taken
Yarra River                                           438 billion litres                     No figure provided
Maribyrnong River                                 3 billion litres                        8 billion litres
Barwon River (Geelong)                         31 billion litres                      55 billion litres
Werribee                                              10 billion litres                      27 billion litres
Moorabool(Ballarat/Geelong)                  23 billion litres                      89 billion litres

The Department of Sustainability and Environment has refused to release details of how many litres of water could be taken from the rivers under the new strategy. Earlier DSE figures show the amount could be in the billions of litres.

“The Bracks Government promised at the last election to significantly improve the health of our rivers,’’ Dr Sinclair said. “You can’t do that by allowing water authorities to suck more water from our stressed rivers.

“No more water should be taken from Melbourne’s rivers. Instead the water Melburnians are working hard to save should be returned to the rivers to make them healthy.”

According to a recent assessment of river health by the Victorian Government:

  • 46% of the Yarra is in poor or very poor condition
  • Only 1% of the Marybrnong River is in good condition
  • 45% of the Werribee River is in poor or very poor condition.
  • 42% of Geelong’s Barwon River is in poor or very poor condition;
  • 55% of the Moorabool River near Ballarat is in poor or very poor condition

“We’re starving our rivers of water. The loss of healthy rivers will have a dramatic effect on Melbourne’s quality of life and the health of our water supply,” Dr Sinclair said.

“The result will be rivers not fit for your families to fish, boat or swim in.”