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We all depend on healthy rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands and estuaries for an environment which provides clean drinking water for people, farm animals and wildlife. That water is crucial too for food production, industry, habitat for aquatic species, and support of the vegetation communities which are home to animals, birds and invertebrates.
We enjoy the recreational opportunities which beautiful waterways and their surrounds provide. Waterways are practically and spiritually important to Indigenous peoples, having provided them with food, water and travel routes for thousands of years.
To keep our waterways in great condition, sufficient environmental flows are vital, and good management of stream banks and riparian vegetation is essential. Sadly, this has not always been the case, and there is much scope for restoration works to fence out stock and revegetate degraded streamside areas. Pesticides, fertiliser run-off and plastic waste are also issues we must address for waterway health.
In our District 9780 there are some key areas of attention regarding waterways, from government, catchment management authorities, landholders, community groups and traditional owners, for example:
  • Moorabool (Murrabul) River: Improving the health of the river and connection to the community by improving water quality, riparian vegetation and better engagement and awareness. Water take for farm and urban use has led to insufficient flows for a healthy river.
  • Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape: Improving native vegetation and aquatic habitats, increasing the understanding of flow pathways and wetland hydrology, and fostering the sharing and integration of Aboriginal knowledge of the landscape.
  • Upper Barwon (Parwan) River: Improving riparian management practices and environmental monitoring in the upper Barwon catchment.
  • Merri and Hopkins Rivers: Addressing threats and challenges associated with agriculture and an increasing population in Warrnambool, involving riparian works, citizen science and community engagement.
There are Ramsar wetlands within our District. These are wetlands of international significance, listed under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which are globally recognised as representative, rare or unique, and are important for conserving biological diversity. These wetlands are especially important for birdlife. Examples in our District include the Bellarine Peninsula, Western District lakes, Lake Albacutya, Glenelg Estuary and Discovery Bay, Piccaninnie Ponds, and Bool and Hacks Lagoon.
Water for the environment means water that is not extracted for human use but rather is allowed to remain and flow, to maintain the health of rivers, wetlands, floodplains and estuaries. Environmental water stimulates native fish to breed; triggers and promotes riparian plant seeding, germination and growth; flushes out salt; moves organic matter onto the floodplain, and allows fish to move freely in the river. It can also provide social, cultural and economic benefits, such as boating, canoeing and fishing.
There are many opportunities for Rotary clubs to promote awareness of waterway health issues, and to work collaboratively with authorities and local Landcare groups in practical projects such as tree planting, noxious weed removal, and riverside clean-ups.
More information about waterway health can be found at , which has provided some of the information for this article.
Photo captions:
  1. Rapid flow and minor flooding in the Barwon River at Red Gum Island, Fyansford (top right)
  2. An uncharacteristic volume of water in the Moorabool River at Fyansford, following recent rains, July-August 2021, at the historic Monier reinforced concrete bridge, built by John Monash and JTN Anderson in 1899-1900 (top left)