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Water on the way for Merbein Common

Environmental water will be delivered to Merbein Common later this month for the first time in four years.

Water on the way for Merbein Common

Cowanna Billabong, which will be topped up by the upcoming deliver of environmental water.

The watering is expected to start on May 23 and will deliver a total of 450 megalitres of environmental water within a month. This water will top up levels in Cowanna Billabong and return flows to Brickworks Billabong.

It will be the first time environmental water has been delivered to Cowanna Billabong and the first time since 2006 that Brickworks Billabong has received environmental water.

Some of the tracks at Merbein Common will be restricted during the watering, but this won’t affect access to irrigation pumps.

The upcoming environmental watering has been welcomed by key community groups, including the Friends of Merbein Common and the Sunraysia Bird Observers Club.

“I think the environmental watering is good for the environment because without some water for the birds and frogs, the trees and plants, the area will be more drought affected than it is already,” said Fay Sutton, a member of the Friends of Merbein Common.

“When the water was delivered in 2006, we saw an almost immediate response from the frogs in the area and that was quite amazing.”

The water to be delivered to Merbein Common next month is from the Victorian environmental entitlement, legally set aside to protect rivers and wetlands. It is subject to the same allocations as irrigation water and using it does not affect anybody else’s water allocations.

The Merbein Common watering is being undertaken by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), in partnership with Department of Sustainability and Environment, Parks Victoria and water corporations. It is part of the wider Victorian environmental watering program, under which 30 billion litres will be delivered to 11 priority sites in northern Victoria over the next few months.

“Wetlands need variations in water levels to be healthy, so increasing the amount of water in Cowanna Billabong over the coming months is an important step toward improving the health of the billabong,” Mallee CMA chief executive officer Jenny Collins said.

“Once the water levels in Cowanna Billabong have been raised about 30cm, a pipe inlet that connects Cowanna Billabong to Brickworks Billabong will be opened and water will flow into Brickworks.”

Ms Collins said the return of environmental water to the two local billabongs would give the surrounding River Red gum and Black Box trees a much-needed drink, as well as attract birds and frogs.

Pauline Bartels is the president of the Sunraysia Bird Observers Club and is looking forward to seeing what birds return to Merbein Common once the watering begins.

“We did some bird monitoring when water was delivered to the Merbein Common in 2006 and saw a very good response and recorded well over 100 species,” she said.

“The environmental watering helps recreate temporary wetlands and return a natural variation in water levels in the billabongs, which attracts different species to the water at different times.

“Some of the species we recorded last time included ducks and migratory species such sharp tail sandpipers.”
The pumps that will deliver the environmental water will be turned on during the Friends of Merbein Common Community Day on May 23, 2010.

The day gets underway at 10.30am and will include a 3.6km bushwalk at the common, before the pumps are turned on and community members enjoy a barbecue at Cowanna Billabong.

For more information on the Friends of Merbein Common Community Day, contact Julian Raudino from Parks Victoria on 5051 4355 or visit the Merbein Information Centre.

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