Rural drainage has significantly impacted inland aquatic systems throughout Victoria. Up to one third of the state’s wetlands and 75 percent of the shallow freshwater wetlands of southwest Victoria have been lost, or severely modified by drainage works. Dryland rural drainage is the is last sector of water management in Victoria to be reviewed.
The 2016 Water for Victoria plan, committed to developing a rural drainage strategy through an open and consultative process. In delivering the strategy the Victorian State Government is working with catchment management authorities to establish contemporary arrangements for rural drainage. Government and catchment management authorities will use innovative approaches to increase local climate change resilience and protect environmental values while landholders maintain appropriate drainage services.
The Corangamite Catchment Management Authority has responsibility for two drainage schemes in its region. These drainage schemes can impact two Ramsar sites (Lake Corangamite, part of the Western Districts Lakes Ramsar Site and the Lower Barwon Wetlands complex, part of the Port Phillip Bay (Western Shoreline) and Bellarine Peninsula Ramsar Site). In recent years, diminished natural inflows, exacerbated by the diversion scheme have seen significantly reduced water levels in Lake Corangamite, leading to a potential change in its ecological character.
The management framework outlined in the draft* Strategy empowers landholders and community partners to work together to improve rural drainage management, while driving the agricultural sector’s contribution to the Victorian economy and supporting positive cultural and environmental outcomes.
*Strategy draft at time of writing may be finalised by August 2018