Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
The first use of the Commonwealth's environmental water in the Murray-Darling Basin occurred in March 2009. During the 2008-09 year, in cooperation with our delivery partners, we provided water to ten wetlands and floodplains in three Murray-Darling Basin states. 10.9 gigalitres of Commonwealth environmental water was used at these sites. Approximately 4 gigalitres was also contributed to these sites by other sources including the states and territories or through The Living Murray program.
The provision of water to the environment represents an important achievement in the implementation of the Australian Government's Water for the Future initiative. Commonwealth environmental water that has been acquired through Water for the Future programs is being managed with the aim of achieving maximum environmental outcomes. Delivery of the water to the environment is occurring with strong cooperation between governments and other organisations, catchment management authorities and community groups.
This report has been prepared to provide information on the preliminary outcomes of environmental watering during 2008-09. As we are still very early in the process, a more complete picture of environmental outcomes will take more time to emerge. During this first year, the volumes of water provided and the sites selected for water were relatively small in scale, reflecting the prevailing drought conditions and the beginning of the water acquisition programs. Nevertheless, watering has already provided clear benefits to several important environmental assets.
Although the program is at a very early stage, monitoring programs have already detected encouraging changes such as improving tree health, decreasing salinity and benefit to populations of rare and endangered species.
In the coming years, the Commonwealth's environmental water holdings will grow substantially. This will give us an increased range of watering options and a much greater capacity to protect or restore environmental assets and improve overall ecosystem health. We will report regularly on the outcomes of the use of this water.