Wimmera environmental flows should be capped: Water expert

Lake Hindmarsh. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Lake Hindmarsh. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

A WIMMERA water expert has advocated for a cap on environmental flows in the region.

Former Wimmera-Mallee water supervisor and Wimmera water historian Bob McIlvena said water use needed to be prioritised to ensure water conservation was the first priority.

“Taking into account our present position with storage below 50 per cent capacity and the possible El Nino, I think there’s too much water being sent down the Wimmera waterways,” he said.

“I would put a cap on environmental flows to ensure the original intention of conserving water of the Wimmera-Mallee.

“It should be water use for stock and domestic purposes, which takes priority.”

Mr McIlvena said water management was ultimately at the behest of the environment.

“One thing we must be aware of is although the pipeline has reduced the wastage dramatically, nature is still in command,” he said.

“We are still at the mercy of nature; man can only deal with what he’s given.

“You can’t get water from any other part of Australia, we’ve got our own catchment here and that’s it.

“Regardless of what water is in the reservoirs, there’s got to be a certain point to say ‘okay, where are the priorities?’

“Do you keep the agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture going at the risk of restricting supplies to the people?”

Mr McIlvena said recreational waters should rely on rainfall rather than environmental flows.

“As for this idea of filling Lake Hindmarsh and Lake Albacutya – that I think mainly stems from Spring Street – it will be nature that decides whether that occurs or not,” he said.

He said water management had to be treated as a year-to-year proposition.

“Every year is a different year. There’s no such thing as a normal year where water is concerned,” Mr McIlvena said. 

“We’re getting little showers now and things are looking reasonable for people to sow crops on, but it could dry out yet – El Nino could occur.”

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