Blog | 24th Feb, 2011

Drinking deeply, their trunks lapped by gentle floodwaters, the giants of the riverland – the River Red Gums – are putting on new growth.

To get a sense of how their response looks at a floodplain scale, check out these satellite images of the vegetations’ response to the floodwaters. You’ll agree that in January last year, things were looking pretty grim.

Now, as flows of 90,000 million litres of water make their way to the lower lakes in South Australia every day, the environment’s responding well to what some scientists are billing as the most significant flood event for the Murray in 130 years.

Not the biggest flood event, but certainly the most significant, because these ecosystems have been waiting for 15 long years for floods of this magnitude.

On the Kerang Lakes here in Victoria, water birds responded to the spring rains by laying clutches of eggs. There will be a jump in bird numbers across most of the wetland ecosystems along the Murray. But seeing as bird numbers plummeted by 80 percent over the past thirty years, there’s a lot of ground to be made up.

Before the recent rains, around 75 percent of River Red Gums along the Murray were stressed, dead or dying. Now, although most are responding well, estimates are that up to 30 percent have been lost.

This flood doesn’t solve the problem. Before long, we’ll likely be into another drought, and now is the time to sort out how we will manage what water we have available.

This is not time to abandon or postpone important national water reform.

We need to support the ecological response – the flourishing in our stressed wetland ecosystems – by recovering water for the environment through secure entitlements. This doesn’t mean that water will be compulsorily acquired, but it does mean that we need to find a fairer way to share water in the Murray-Darling Basin.

If you haven’t yet read and signed our online petition calling for a Plan that delivers for the environment, you can consider doing so here.

We’re calling for a Plan that will recover enough water to increase the frequency of small to medium floods on Murray River floodplains. A Plan that will restore the Basin to health by returning up to 7,600 billion litres of water to rivers – rivers from whence it came.

For more info, sign up for this week’s Save The Murray e-bulletin.