Environmental Works and Measures Feasibility Program

The program developed and tested the feasibility of a suite of Environmental Works and Measures projects in the Murray-Darling Basin. In broad terms, an Environmental Works and Measures (EWM) project aims to achieve similar or better environmental outcomes using less water than previously estimated in planning processes such as the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The types of projects investigated included the installation of regulators and ancillary infrastructure to enable broader and more natural floodplain inundation, and the removal of physical constraints to facilitate the delivery of environmental flow.

Some Environmental Works and Measures are suitable for consideration as a 'Supply Measure' as defined in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Supply measures are works, river operations or rule changes that enable the use of less water but still achieve the Plan's environmental outcomes. Such projects would allow the Basin Plan's 2,750 gigalitres (GL) recovery volume to be reduced, thereby reducing the social and economic impact of water recovery to achieve the Basin Plan's Sustainable Diversion Limit. Some Basin governments consider that supply measures may be able to reduce water recovery efforts by as much as 650GL. For more information on Supply Measures see Fact sheet: Sustainable Diversion Limit adjustment mechanism.

Program Funding

The Australian Government provided $10 million for the Environmental Works and Measures Feasibility Program as part of the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program (SRWUIP). Of this, $6 million was used for seventeen state identified projects in New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and Queensland.

In addition $4 million was available for state-led processes to identify community proposals and test these through pre-feasibility studies.

The program closed in July 2013 for new projects.

See also:

Diagram

Example of a regulator and fishway design
Source: The Living Murray Project

Regulators are structures with gates that can be opened or closed to allow controlled flooding and drying of wetlands to mimic natural conditions. This can increase the amount of habitat available for waterbirds and native fish.

Fishways are contrivances that enable fish to pass through or around a barrier. Fish need to move freely within their environment and structures such as regulators, weirs and road crossings create a physical barrier to fish passage.

State Projects

New South Wales

Implementing Agency - NSW Office of Water

State identified projects ($2 million)

NSW carried out studies on eight State identified projects.

New South Wales Final report (PDF - 516.24 KB) | (DOC - 6.28 MB)

1. Euston Lake restoration and improved water efficiency ($0.4 million)

This feasibility study investiged the management of Euston Lakes to assess water efficiencies and environmental benefits through a more natural wetting and drying regime, and included hydrodynamic modelling of the Euston lakes and Lock 15. Euston Lakes are located on the northern side of the Murray River, approximately 80 kilometres south east of Mildura near the town of Euston.

2. Upper Murrumbidgee environmental flow enhancement ($0.5 million)

This project investigated the feasibility of raising the Mundarlo Bridge near Gundagai to allow improved environmental flows between Wagga Wagga and Hay. The investigation identified the need for complementary actions such as the purchase of flood easements.

3. Nimmie-Caira System enhanced environmental water delivery ($0.2 million)

This project investigated the potential to enhance environmental water delivery to key ecological assets in the Lower Murrumbidgee floodplain (Hay to Balranald) and downstream in the Murray Valley. The investigation considered the potential to provide significant environmental benefit and reduce environmental water requirements through changed land use and infrastructure.

4. Burrendong Dam environmental flow enhancement ($0.2 million)

This pre-feasibility project investigated the potential benefit from enhancing the outlet capacity at Burrendong dam, south east of Wellington. This may enable the release of higher pulse flows which could lead to environmental benefits such as native fish spawning and recruitment, and potentially the more efficient delivery of environmental water including to the Macquarie Marshes.

5. Southern Macquarie Marshes environmental flow enhancement ($0.2 million)

This project assessed options for more efficient inundation of the South Macquarie Marsh (approximately 50 kilometres north of Warren), including options for restoring more stable floodplains, streambeds and wetlands.

6. Investigation into efficient delivery of high priority stock and domestic supplies ($0.15 million)

This pre-feasibility project undertook assessments to identify additional water efficiency gains by piping stock and domestic water supply schemes in high priority locations including in the Macquarie, Murray and Murrumbidgee river systems.

7. Modify weirs enhance floodplain inundation ($0.2 million)

This project undertook a strategic assessment of some existing weirs along the Murray River to determine the optimal weir pool height for facilitating more efficient delivery of environmental water onto the surrounding floodplain in a range of flow events.

8. Piping irrigation demands ($0.15 million)

This pre-feasibility project undertook investigations of the potential for water efficiency gains from developing pipelines to supply irrigation users in close vicinity to NSW State Water dams. The investigation considered the potential to deliver better and more water-efficient environmental outcomes from returning to more variable flow patterns in rivers and streams.

Community identified projects ($1.2 million)

The NSW Office of Water (NOW) received 45 submissions incorporating 70 proposed environmental works and measures. These submissions were shortlisted to 11 pre-feasibility assessment projects.

Shortlisted community projects
  • On-farm storages in Northern Basin - Improve the efficiency of on-farm storages by reducing surface area and hence evaporation.
  • Redbank North (Lowbidgee) - Acquire water entitlements and redirect water entitlements to environmental assets and purposes.
  • Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area on-farm efficiency - Implement on-farm efficiencies such as drainage reuse and storage, installation of drip and overhead irrigation systems and installation of technology to support new irrigation installations. This project received in-principle Commonwealth funding approval of $29.6m under Round 3 of the SRWUIP On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program on 10 December 2012, after the community consultation phase was completed. The project was retained in the final report as a record of the consultation process.
  • Yanco Creek management - Modify operation and infrastructure associated with flow management in the Yanco Creek system.
  • Improved water delivery to small irrigation areas and irrigation trusts (Murray) - Improve delivery efficiency (reduction of losses) by strategic piping and works and measures in small joint irrigation schemes to deliver irrigation, domestic and stock water.
  • Improve flow management in the Edward River - Improve delivery and environmental flow management in the Edward River.
  • Murray Irrigation on-farm efficiency - Implement on-farm efficiencies such as: installation of drip and micro irrigation systems, installation of technology to support new irrigation installations and piping domestic and stock supply.
  • Removal of flow regulation from effluent streams across NSW - Reduce extent and volume delivered to effluent streams, by changed management and infrastructure (possible piping).
  • Modification of Willandra creek off-take - Modify off-take conditions to restore a more natural flow regime to Willandra Creek.
  • Talyawalka environmental flow enhancement - Assess volumetric and environmental benefits of works to allow more sustainable watering of the Talyawalka wetland.
  • Computer Aided River Management - Improve the timing of water delivery and reduce water loss, using operational tools to better process river data.

Further information on the community proposals can be found at: NSW Murray-Darling Basin Environmental Works and Measures.

Victoria

Implementing Agency - Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment

State identified projects ($2 million)

Victoria carried out studies on five state identified projects.

Victoria Final report (PDF - 663.93 KB) | (DOCX - 1021.34 KB)

9. Watering the Lindsay Island floodplain ($1.1 million)

This project progressed Stage 2 of the The Living Murray Lindsay Island project. Stage 2 involves construction of a large weir and eight smaller regulators to improve inundation regimes for over 5,000 hectares including large areas of River Red Gums. The study revised concept designs and investigated salinity impacts, geotechnical requirements and cultural heritage issues.

10. Watering the Wallpolla Island floodplain ($0.1 million)

This project reviewed concept designs for regulating structures to improve inundation regimes of stressed floodplain, including River Red Gum communities and wetlands.

11. Watering River Red Gum sites along the Murray ($0.2 million)

This project underook scoping and feasibility studies into using structural works to deliver environmental water to various Victorian sites between Echuca and the South Australian Border, including in the newly established reserves for the protection of River Red Gums. Specific sites investigated were the Nyah and Vinifera Forests, Burra Creek, and the Guttrum and Benwell Forests.

12. Watering Black box wetlands in Gunbower forest ($0.45 million)

This project undertook the concept design of a 50 metre channel to deliver water from the Torrumbarry weir pool to the Gunbower forest, including an offtake regulator and fishway. These works could inundate over 8,000 hectares of forest, including threatened Black Box woodland and wetlands.

13. Watering the Hattah Lakes - Chalka Creek North ($0.15 million)
Photo

The Living Murray Environmental regulator
under construction at Hattah Lakes
September 2012
Vince Keogh

This project completed feasibility studies and concept designs for environmental regulators, road upgrades and box culverts in Hattah Lakes north, approximately 50 kilometres south of Mildura. It will be integrated with works currently being constructed under The Living Murray program.

Community identified projects ($1.2 million)

The Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment received 30 submissions from Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (CMA), North East CMA, Mallee CMA and North Central CMA. The submissions were shortlisted to 4 pre-feasibility assessment projects.

Shortlisted community projects
  • Belsar Yungera Floodplain Complex - Install infrastructure to broaden extent of natural flooding events.
  • Guttrum and Benwell Forests - Install structures for targeted watering of semi permanent wetlands in State Forests.
  • Gaynor Swamp - Install infrastructure to deliver water directly to Gaynor Swamp.
  • St Leonards Wetland - Install structures to allow more natural wetting-drying regimes.

South Australia

Implementing Agency - Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources

State identified projects ($1 million)

South Australia carried out studies on three state identified projects.

South Australia state sub-projects Final report (PDF - 864.46 KB) | (DOCX - 104.78 KB)

South Australia community component Final report (PDF - 3.66 MB) | (DOCX - 48.32 KB)

14. Katfish Reach and Pike Floodplain environmental regulating structures ($0.65 million)

These projects assessed the feasibility of installing new environmental regulators in the Pike floodplain near Renmark and the Katfish Reach floodplain, south of Berri. Construction and operation of environmental regulating structures will have salt impacts, but these impacts can be managed. Subject to due diligence of a full business case the Australian Government has agreed to provide $155 million for the implementation of the project. For more information see: New floodplain projects to bring boost for river red gums and Murray Cod - media release 26 November 2012.

15. Eastern Mt Lofty Ranges low flow bypasses ($0.18 million)

Hydro-ecological modelling was conducted to determine the strategic placement of possible low flow bypass devices in dams at locations in the Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges.

16. Implications for environmental water delivery ($0.17 million)

This project undertook hydrological feasibility and risk assessments to determine the implications of river regulation scale environmental flows to South Australia. It considered the potential for environmental works and measures to offset sustainable diversion limits from otherwise uncontrolled water losses in the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin.

Community identified projects ($0.8 million)

The South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources received 107 submissions which were shortlisted to 6 pre-feasibility assessment projects.

Shortlisted community projects
  • Bookmark Creek - Improve the health of the Bookmark Creek main channel and wetland through better flow management and improved native fish passage.
  • Martin Bend Wetland - Maintain a freshwater lens, improve water flow throughout the wetland and allow for better regulation of water levels.
  • Lakes Albert and Alexandrina Wetlands - Three wetlands in the Lower Lakes were selected to be considered for pre-feasibility: Waltowa (part of Ramsar area, high cultural significance for the Ngarrindjeri); Tolderol (part of Ramsar area); and Teringie (part of Ramsar area, very significant site for the Ngarrindjeri).
  • Hindmarsh Island - Allow water to flow from Shadows Lagoon westward across the island to rehabilitate ecosystems, remove salt and improve habitats for birds and other animals.

Queensland

Implementing Agency - Department of Natural Resources and Mines

State identified projects ($1 million)

Queensland Final report (PDF - 2.81 MB) | (DOCX - 6.15 MB)

17. Queensland Murray Darling Basin environmental works and measures ($1.0 million)

Queensland is carrying out feasibility studies on 2 packages of State identified projects:

  • Package 1 - Piping proposal for the Callandoon and Yambocully Water Supply (irrigation) Schemes.
  • Package 2 - Lower Balonne Works and Measures, incorporating:
    • Strategic acquisition of Overland Flow Licences and the implementation of associated works and measures where relevant;
    • Upgrade of outlet works on Bifurcation Weirs; and
    • Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) use of off-stream storages in the Lower Balonne.

Queensland continues to undertake community engagement activities to further explore the pathway for potential supply measures.

Community identified projects ($0.8 million)

Two packages of works were shortlisted for pre-feasibility assessment:

  • Package 3 - Fishways on structures; including possible removal of some structures in the Condamine, Balonne and Border River basins, and in conjunction with the strategic acquisition and management of regulated water entitlements.
  • Package 4 - Multi-Level offtakes from Glenlyon Dam. This project's purpose is to reduce cold water pollution.
Map detailing the 17 state identified projects

Click on map to view a larger image (1 MB)