Media Releases | 26th Sep, 2006

A healthy Yarra River at just 13 litres a day

Tuesday, 26 September 2006

The health of the Yarra could be improved if every Melburnian saved just 13 litres of water a day – easily achieved by switching to a water-efficient shower head – according to the first independent audit of the river.

The Independent audit of Environmental Flow Provisions of the Yarra River was commissioned by Environment Victoria and found that a Melbourne Water proposal to return 17,000 megalitres to the Yarra would improve the health of the river. The audit was conducted by scientists at the University of Melbourne.

That amount of water could be saved and returned to the river if every Melburnian saved just 13 litres a day. By installing a water efficient shower head, each home in Melbourne can save 12 000 litres of water a year for a cost of just $20.

Environment Victoria has called on the Victorian Government to provide legal protection to ensure the Yarra receives the environmental flows it needs.

“The Yarra’s current flows have no legal protection. Rivers need strong legal rights if they’re to be passed on in good condition to future generations. When we save water for rivers we want that water protected,” said Dr Sinclair, Environment Victoria’s Healthy Rivers Campaign Director.

“Healthy rivers secure healthy water supplies. Melbourne takes about 68 per cent of its drinking water from the Yarra. By each of us saving just 13 litres of water a day we can all improve the health of the Yarra, boost the quality of our drinking water and reduce our water bills”, said Dr Sinclair.

A key benefit of these environmental flows would include:

  • Boosting the overall health of the river, 46% of which is currently rated as being in poor or very poor condition
  • Boosting the quality of our drinking water
  • Improvements to the health of native fish populations, which are a key indicator of river health, including short-finned eels (the symbol of Melbourne at the Commonwealth Games); river blackfish; short-headed lamprey; pouched lamprey; spotted galaxies; Australian smelt and Australian grayling.

The independent audit also recommended that more work needed to be done by Melbourne Water to:

  • provide managed floods to sustain wetlands along the Yarra.
  • manage the negative impacts of the Upper Yarra Dam to improve the health of the Yarra.
  • investigate how weirs of the Yarra system are impeding the movement of native fish up and down the river.
  • provide legal protection for the Yarra’s environmental flows.
  • continue to monitor how successful the proposed environmental flows are in improving river health

“This audit shows that Melbourne Water has taken a strong first step towards improving the river flow of the Yarra,” Dr Sinclair said. “But there must be an ongoing process of improving the Yarra’s flow. The Victorian Government should also be providing river flows to our other great rivers like the Maribyrnong and Werribee.

“Melbourne can save water, save rivers and secure healthy water supplies.”

Download the Independent audit of Environmental Flow Provisions of the Yarra River