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Published: 25 June 2019   •   Media release

Environmental watering priorities across the Murray–Darling Basin will support river flows and connectivity over the coming year and target ways to help native fish, waterbirds and native vegetation survive ongoing dry conditions.

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) released the Environmental Watering Priorities on Tuesday and said the main focus for the coming water year would be to avoid irreversible impacts on vegetation, fish, waterbirds and the important sites that sustain them.

MDBA Executive Director of Science, Knowledge and Engagement, Carl Binning, said the priorities also highlighted the need to manage risks to water quality, with warm and dry conditions expected to continue into the coming water year, which starts on July 1.

"Just as communities are grappling with this drought so is the environment," Mr Binning said.

"It's crucial that water for the environment is used carefully and that each drop delivers the maximum benefit for fish, waterbirds and native vegetation.

"The priorities took account of the relevant recommendations of Professor Rob Vertessy and his expert panel on the fish deaths in the lower Darling River over summer.

"The priorities aim to improve river connectivity and help support areas of refuge for native fish during the drought, particularly in the northern Basin, and to provide flows to core wetlands and areas of native vegetation.

"We want to help improve habitat for waterbirds, and support and improve native fish populations.

"It is also important that environmental water holders can respond quickly to rain events, as early refreshing flows are crucial to help the environment recover from prolonged dry periods. Active management and protection of early flows, particularly in unregulated rivers, will be critical.

"Temperatures across the Basin have been above average for the past six years and storage levels in the southern Basin are the lowest in three years, while storage levels in the northern Basin are lower than at any point during the millennium drought.

"Environmental water is allocated by state governments in the same way as water is allocated to irrigators, so when irrigators receive no water, environmental water holders receive zero for the same kind of entitlement."
The Basin environmental watering priorities 2019-20 is available at on the MDBA website.

ENDS

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