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Lake Wallawalla to fill for the first time in more than a decade

Pumping has begun to fill an important local wetland that has been dry for more than a decade.

Lake Wallawalla to fill for the first time in more than a decade

Red Gums at Lake Wallwalla.

Lake Wallawalla is a nationally recognised wetland, located near Lindsay Island, about 90 minutes drive west of Mildura. The large lake is part of the Murray Sunset National Park and will be filled by 12 billion litres of environmental water, made available by the Commonwealth Government.

The lake is expected to take about three months to fill.

The Mallee CMA is managing the delivery of the environmental water, in partnership with the Department of Sustainability and Environment and Parks Victoria.

“Lake Wallawalla hasn’t held any water since a flood in 1996, except for a small volume in 2001, so the wetland and all the species that depend on it are in need of a good drink,” Mallee CMA CEO Jenny Collins said.

The watering will inundate stressed Black Box and River Red Gums and create a significant and extended drought refuge, supporting nationally threatened species such as the Regent Parrot and Southern Bell Frog, along with the White-bellied Sea Eagle and Inland Carpet Python, which are threatened species in Victoria.

A range of surveys has been conducted in the lead up to the delivery of the environmental water to Lake Wallawalla, to ensure baseline data is available to monitor the impact the water has on the landscape. Research conducted includes aquatic vegetation surveys and assessments on the health of River Red Gum trees surrounding the lake.
Once the water is delivered, further monitoring will be conducted to gauge the response of frogs, waterbirds, tree health and aquatic vegetation.

The environmental water delivery will utilise two environmental regulators built at Lake Wallawalla under The Living Murray program in 2006. These structures enable a greater volume of water to be held in the lake to maximise ecological outcomes.

“Since the allocation of the 12GL for Lake Wallawalla was announced by the Commonwealth Government in January this year, we have been getting the base line data in order and there’s been some minor modifications made to the regulator to ensure the water can be delivered most efficiently,” Ms Collins said.

Lake Wallawalla is the first of eight sites in the Mallee CMA region to begin receiving environmental water during autumn 2010.

While 12 billion litres (12 gigalitres/GL) will be delivered to Lake Wallawalla from the Commonwealth, a further 20.45 GL will be delivered to other sites in the region.  The environmental water being delivered to these sites comes from various sources, including the Commonwealth; the Victorian Government; and The Living Murray program.

This water will provide 2.2GL to other sites at Lindsay Island; 3GL will be pumped into sites at Wallpolla Island; and 11GL will top up the lakes in the Hattah Lakes system.

Additionally five river channel sites will also receive Victorian environmental water, with Liparoo (near Hattah) and Carina Bend (near Robinvale) to receive 1GL each; Nyah will receive 1.5GL; Merbein Common will receive 450 megalitres (ML), and 300 ML will be delivered to Margooya Lagoon (also near Robinvale).

The proportion of water for the autumn environmental watering program has seen a significant increase from last year due to more water being available from Victorian water efficiency projects, as well as more water recovered through The Living Murray program and through the Commonwealth Government’s water purchase program.

The water being used is from environmental entitlement and water shares, legally set aside to protect rivers and wetlands. It is subject to the same allocations as irrigators and using it does not affect anybody else’s water allocations.

Pumping for all other sites other than Lake Wallawalla is expected to begin in late April-May, 2010.

Click here to view a Google Earth map of Lake Wallawalla.

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