Australia releases billions of litres of water to protect parched environment

Australia's drought-plagued Murray-Darling river basin is to receive respite in the form of 3.1 billion litres of water.

As part of an ongoing scheme, the federal government has bought back water allowances from farmers and others with abstraction rights to ensure much-needed water remains in the ecosystem.

On this occasion, the water will be used to boost levels in the Hattah Lakes, an internationally significant wetland area important for its bird life and rare River Red Gum trees.

A further 3.1 billion litres has been provided by the Victorian state government.

The lakes are important for maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the region because the floodplain complex supports a large variety and number of waterbirds and includes breeding habitat for many species.

The Hattah Lakes have previously received Commonwealth, Victorian, Living Murray and private donations of water aimed at avoiding irretrievable loss of River Red Gums and providing a drought refuge for water-dependent species.

It is anticipated that this watering will maintain, and perhaps improve, the health of the River Red Gums as well as improve the extent and diversity of wetland vegetation.

Climate Change and Water Minister Penny Wong said: "In this era of extended drought and climate change, we face monumental challenges in the Murray-Darling Basin,"

"We have taken over Basin-wide planning and will put a new, lower, scientifically-based limit on water use in the Basin for the first time ever.

"We have committed more than $4 billion so far to upgrade and modernise water and irrigation infrastructure in the Basin to help our farmers and regional communities and to protect food security.

"And we are buying back water to help restore health to our rivers, securing the purchase of 612 gigalitres of water entitlements at a cost of $947 million to 30 September this year."

Sam Bond


| drought | wetlands


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