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Barmah–Millewa Forest

Watering events 2016–17

Environmental water was used at Barmah-Millewa Forest to build on the benefits of a wet spring by extending floodplain inundation, to maintain waterbird breeding, and to trial a means of improving connectivity for native fish. 

Natural inflows provided high inundation of the forest, reaching a peak of 180,000 ML a day at Yarrawonga in October 2016 . Environmental water was added after the peak flows[JP5]  had subsided to support growth of floodplain marsh vegetation species on open plains, including Moira grass[JP6] .  The 2016 environmental watering resulted in growth and flowering, with some Moira grass present in places from which it had previously disappeared . Watering supported successful waterbird breeding, with around 8,000 breeding pairs observed.

Environmental water was also used to support large-bodied native fish including Murray Cod and golden perch to move between Toupna Creek, Millewa Forest and the River Murray. This provided connectivity and the water then flowed to South Australia.

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder contributed approximately 164 GL, The Living Murray approximately 154.5 GL and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder approximately 7.5 GL to these multi-site watering events.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage also provided 4.48 GL of environmental water to sustain a targeted breeding event for colonial nesting waterbirds and bitterns through summer at several lagoons: Reed Beds, Black Swamp; St Helena; and Coppingers.

Site managers are continuing to monitor the outcomes of these watering event. Information will be published when it becomes available.

Watering volumes are provisional pending reconciliation.


Werta Wert Wetlands in Chowilla National Park.
An Eastern Grey Kangaroo makes its way through the flooded Barmah–Millewa Forest.

Ecological objectives

There are 4 high-level ecological objectives for the Barmah–Millewa Forest:

  • restore the extent and distribution of healthy wetland and floodplain vegetation communities
  • provide suitable feeding and breeding habitat for a range of waterbirds, including colonial nesting species
  • support successful breeding and recruitment of native fish species
  • provide high quality feeding, breeding and nursery habitat for native frogs, turtles and crayfish.

Past watering events

Water Year Volume (GL)* Outcomes
2015-16 430.7 Moira grass growth, native fish spawning and completion of nesting cycle for more than 1,000 pairs of colonial nesting waterbirds
2014–15 Nil No environmental water delivered, but some natural flooding occurred resulting in new growth of wetland vegetation and breeding of golden perch
2013–14 371.3 Successful growth and flowering of Moira grass, successful breeding of colonial waterbirds, improved health for floodplain vegetation and benefits for native fish and turtles
2012–13 2.9 Successful breeding of colonial waterbirds at Boals Deadwood
2011–12 424.6 Improve the health of river red gums and other floodplain vegetation, contribute to successful bird breeding, and provide a flow pulse for fish breeding
2010–11 428 Recovery and maintenance of wetland vegetation, and contributed to a successful bird breeding event
2009–10 18.1 Recovery and maintenance of wetland vegetation, and maintenance of bird breeding and foraging habitat

Note that volumes may include water from:

*All environmental water holders