A NEW online database released by Environment Victoria will provide information on the health of the Wimmera’s rivers.
The interactive maps, or ‘atlas’, give ratings on the health of a river system at different points based on data collated from government departments.
Wimmera Catchment Management Authority chief executive David Brennan backed the new tool, which he said was a user-friendly way for people to see an analysis of a river’s health.
“I think it’s a really concise tool that synthesises all the relevant and contemporary information in regard to the Wimmera,” he said.
“It gives a snapshot and basically rates river health from one to five.
“In different reaches of the Wimmera River catchment we rate from ones to fives, so there’s a fair bit of variability in the actual health of the Wimmera catchment.”
He said the key to improving the health of the river was in improving environmental flows, which would ensure the right balance of fresh water and saline water.
He said the right balance would help protect a vital cog in the river’s ecosystem, macro-invertebrates, which supported other wildlife such as birds and fish.
Mr Brennan said the catchment authority was continually looking at ways to enhance the river’s health.
“There are a number of practical measures such as fencing riparian areas so there’s less erosion and there’s basically less bare soil,” he said.
“When you’ve got bare soil, it creates erosion and nutrient run-off.
“There are all the other things the community can get involved with such as making sure their rubbish isR packed up when they enjoy the river.”
Environment Victoria healthy rivers campaign manager Juliet Le Feuvre said the idea behind collating the information, which was available through various government reports, was to give people easy access to information on river health.
“Governments hold a lot of information about our rivers and water resources, but it’s buried in a multitude of hard-to-find reports,” she said.
Ms Le Feuvre said as was the case with most rivers in Victoria, the Wimmera River was short of water.
“In the Wimmera you’ve got a lot of small users of water, it’s a lot of small water users adding up to big water use,” she said.
“In the case of the Wimmera there’s been a really severe loss of water.
“The Wimmera River is not flowing the way that it used to flow.”
Water quality is rated as good at the top of catchment but very poor in some parts lower in the catchment.
Ms Le Feuvre said with November’s state election looming it was timely to bring river health issues to the fore.