Hattah Lakes icon site: The Living Murray Condition Monitoring

The Living Murray is Australia’s largest long-term river restoration project. The cross-jurisdictional program was a joint initiative of the Australian Government and the governments of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. The program was a significant investment in the long term sustainability of the River Murray system and aimed to achieve a healthy, working river for the benefit of all Australians.

The Living Murray efforts involved a combination of on ground works for the delivery of environmental water and a program monitoring the ecological-condition of six icon sites chosen for their ecological and cultural significance. The six icon sites are:

  • Barmah-Millewa Forest
  • Gunbower and Koondrook-Perricoota Forests
  • Hattah Lakes
  • Chowilla Floodplain (including Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands)
  • Lower Lakes, Coorong and Murray Mouth
  • River Murray channel.

The Hattah Lakes icon site is located within the Hattah–Kulkyne National Park in the north-west of Victoria. The Hattah Lakes are a system of over 20 perennial and intermittent freshwater lakes of which 12 are Ramsar-listed. The area’s unique biodiversity includes more than 280 species of indigenous fauna and more than 280 floral species, many of which are water regime sensitive. Most of the lakes are filled via the Chalka Creek anabranch during high flows in the Murray River. Reduction in river flows driven by the consumptive extraction of water has altered natural hydrology. Filling of the lakes and flooding of the surrounding floodplain has reduced in frequency, magnitude, and duration. The seasonality of inflows has also changed from natural where flooding that most frequently occurred in August is now more common in October.

The Living Murray initiative aims to ameliorate the hydrological threats to the ecological health and character of the Hattah Lakes through the operation of environmental works and measures to reinstate a more natural wetting and drying regime. The recent completion of one of Australia’s largest environmental works projects at Hattah Lakes will be used to achieve a suite of ecological objectives developed for the site. Monitoring and evaluation work is a key component of an adaptive management approach to ensuring the most efficient use of environmental water and optimise ecological outcomes.

The Living Murray Condition Monitoring Program reports on the influence of hydrology, both natural and managed, on River Red Gum and Black Box communities, wetland and floodplain vegetation communities, waterbirds and fish.

This long-term environmental study is important to improve our understanding of how hydrology affects the maintenance of aquatic, riparian and floodplain biota at multiple spatial and temporal scales.

Other stakeholders