Media Releases | 8th Aug, 2007

Melbourne and Bendigo pipelines must be part of solution

Wednesay, 8 August 2007

Environment Victoria today called on the Victorian Government to make the new water supply pipelines to Melbourne and Bendigo part of a solution for the degraded Goulburn-Murray Rivers, and not just another nail in their coffins.

“Our natural infrastructure – the rivers, wetlands and red gum forests that give us clean water and great places to live are being run into the ground. We want to know if Melbourne and Bendigo are going to help restore that natural infrastructure, or are they just going to become another problem for the river?” said Dr Sinclair healthy rivers campaign director.

“Healthy rivers provide clean water and opportunities to build sustainable and prosperous communities and irrigation industries. The Melbourne and Bendigo water companies that are going to take water from the Goulburn and sell it must take the lead in putting water back for the benefit of the river and the whole Victorian community”, said Dr Sinclair.

“If the government is putting well over $1 billion into irrigation and urban water infrastructure and connecting more people up to an already overused river, then they need to deliver secure environmental flows to restore health to the Goulburn and Murray Rivers”, said Dr Sinclair.

The Goulburn is Victoria’s biggest tributary to the Murray River, and vitally important to the health of the internationally significant, but severely degraded wetland forests at Gunbower and Hattah Lakes:

  • 90% of wetlands have been lost from the Murray Darling Basin
  • Water bird populations have collapsed by 90%
  • 75% of river red gum forests in the lower Murray are dead, dying or highly stressed

To begin restoring the health of the Victorian Government needs to:

  • Make the restoration of the Goulburn and Murray Rivers a key part of the Food Bowl Modernisation;
  • Allocate high reliability water entitlements to the Goulburn River before 2010;
  • Make rules that allow environmental water to be stored up over a number of years in Eildon Dam and then released to mimic a natural high river; and
  • Ensure environmental water is ‘green to the sea’ – meaning it can be used at Gunbower, Hattah and the South Australian Coorong at the Murray Mouth.

On average, 91% of the water – or 1 768 000 megalitres – released into the Goulburn River from Eildon Dam is taken by irrigation industries. This is over four times Melbourne’s annual water use. In a dry year the Goulburn River receives 19% of water available, and irrigators and towns 81%.