Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Mark Butler MP

Federal Member for Port Adelaide
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Water

A '300 billion litre drink' for the River Murray

Media release
1 August 2013

Around 300 billion litres of Commonwealth environmental water will flow into the River Murray Valley in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia over the next seven months, helping rejuvenate natural assets like the Lower Lakes in South Australia.

Minister for the Environment Mark Butler today visited the Lower Lakes to announce this new environmental watering effort, saying it would help the Rudd Government meet the environmental water objectives of the Basin Plan.

“Today we take another step forward on the way to the long term protection, maintainance and improvement of the ecological health and resilience of the River Murray system,” Mr Butler said.

“This 300 billion litres of Commonwealth environmental water will support a broad range of environmental outcomes within the River Murray system including flows to the river channel, low-level floodplain wetlands, the Coorong and Lower Lakes.”

Commonwealth environmental water is to be used within the River Murray Valley including the river channel between Hume Dam to the Murray Mouth in South Australia, the lower Darling River channel below Menindee Lakes to Wentworth and associated low level floodplain and wetlands.

Barmah-Millewa Forest, Werai Forest (within the Edward-Wakool system), Gunbower Creek and Forest, Chowilla-Lindsay-Wallpolla floodplain wetlands, the Lower Lakes and Coorong are also expected to benefit.

Mr Butler said the use of Commonwealth environmental water will help to improve water quality and flush salt and nutrients from the River Murray, improving conditions for vegetation, fish and water birds particularly in the Lower Lakes and the Coorong.

“We narrowly averted an environmental crisis at the Lower Lakes during the millennium drought, with environmental water being used to reduce salinity levels and flush out the system to reduce the potential for  conditions for acidification.”

“Protecting and restoring water-dependant ecosystems is critical for the health of the overall system, which in turn benefits communities who live along the river and the whole Australian community who benefit from the food security and other benefits the River Murray provides.”

The Rudd Government is investing more than $12 billion in the Murray Darling Basin to ensure healthy rivers, strong communities and sustainable food and fibre production for current and future generations.

Commonwealth environmental water has been used to good effect to connect rivers and wetlands so that the fish can move between different sites used for nesting areas and food sources. It has also helped native fish populations in the Basin by extending the time they have for breeding.

Water entitlements acquired by the Government’s water recovery programs are managed by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder. Each year, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office undertakes planning for the use of environmental water based on the best available science and advice of local communities and state-based agencies.

This significant amount of water is in addition to 330 billion litres of Commonwealth environmental water already approved for use by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder across the rest of the Murray-Darling Basin this watering year.

For more information on Commonwealth Environmental Water visit www.environment.gov.au