Improving connectivity of unregulated flows across the lower Ovens River floodplain – one of the heathiest floodplains in the Murray-Darling Basin (#157)
The lower Ovens River and its floodplain wetlands are a remarkable system in north-eastern Victoria which are in much better condition than many other river systems in the Murray-Darling Basin. The absence of major water storages and abstractions from the upper catchment has resulted in less impact on the magnitude, frequency and duration of flooding. However there are still a number of issues to manage; namely vegetation clearance, pest species, the operation of the Murray River and backwatering from Lake Mulwala, and the construction of levees, channel banks and roads, some of which have disconnected wetlands from the river. The “Developing Capacity to Improve Connectivity of Unregulated Flows in the Lower Ovens Floodplain” study is a landmark project that integrates complex floodplain hydraulics, catchment hydrology, advanced spatial analysis, ecology and environmental outcomes.
The study concluded that much of the lower Ovens floodplain is in excellent condition. There are few barriers that significantly reduce connectivity; 90% of the wetlands are inundated on average at least every two years. A number of highly valuable datasets have been produced that relate wetland connectivity, frequency of wetland inundation and ecological condition. These datasets significantly improve understanding of the floodplains and expand the catchment management authorities' capacity to engage stakeholders when identifying options to improve management of environmental assets through the design and management of environmental infrastructure. The study can serve as a benchmark for floodplain managers across the Murray-Darling Basin. The approach developed could easily be applied to other river systems across the country.