News | 23rd Jul, 2010

Good rains mean 10bn litre boost for Yarra

Friday, 23 July 2010
Richard Willingham, The Age 

The health of Melbourne's Yarra River will be given a boost with the allocation of 10 billion litres of environmental water.

Solid winter rainfalls, more efficient water management and smart water use by households allowed the government to release 22 billion litres to the Yarra and Thomson Rivers.

Water Minister Tim Holding said the flows were not due to be allocated until Melbourne's water restrictions eased from Stage 3 to 2, but it was now able to do so because water storages are up to 35.6 per cent from 26.9 per cent at this time last year.

Melbourne Water said that between January 1 and July 22, the major catchments that feed the city's dams received 554 millimetres of rain, compared with just 357 millimetres in the same period in 2009.

Total water use was 44 million litres less than the first half of 2009, despite the fact restrictions were relaxed from Stage 3a to Stage 3 in April .

Despite the allocations, Mr Holding would not commit to easing water restrictions for households. He said while some targets were being met, it was to early to make a call – but a decision will be made before the summer.

Opposition country water resource spokesman Peter Walsh said the announcement was an election stunt to appease the environmental movement.

Environment Victoria chief executive Kelly O'Shanassy welcomed the increased flows ahead of any further easing of water restrictions.

''However, we are still yet to see the state government deliver on its full environmental commitments to the Yarra and Thomson,'' Ms O'Shanassy said.

"In 2006 the state government promised to set aside 17 billion litres of water each year for environmental flows in the Yarra. This water has instead been used to bolster Melbourne's water supply.''

She said the Yarra was still owed 10 billion litres of water every year to meet the original environmental flow commitment.

Ms O'Shanassy said there are 15 rivers across the state, including the Yarra and Thomson, that were missing out on the promised flows.