Managing water in wet times

Rivers, creeks and wetlands play a vital role in sustaining healthy communities and economies. They provide connections across the landscape for people, plants and animals, with benefits that extend well beyond the riverbank.

Flood conditions, like those experienced in 2022–23, pose social, economic and environmental challenges. The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is aware of the difficult situations many people face at these times. 

During periods of significant flooding, natural river flows and rainfall are generally sufficient to meet the needs of rivers, wetlands and wildlife without the addition of environmental flows.

When floodwaters recede and drier times return, water for the environment may be used to ensure key habitats remain healthy, rivers and wetlands connect, nutrients are transported throughout the river system, and wildlife has opportunities to breed and feed.

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water manages the limited volume of water set aside for the environment to ensure essential environmental assets remain viable now and into the future. We devise annual water plans with different scenarios in mind – very dry, dry, moderate, and wet to very wet. As part of this annual planning process, we prioritise certain rivers and wetlands to ensure their water requirements are met in the coming months and years. Our management approach is adaptive. We revisit our priorities as the seasons change from dry times to floods and the scenarios in between.

In dry years, the need to release water into our wetlands and rivers for plants, animals and the environment is clearly visible. However, during wet years, our rivers, wetlands and floodplains may still need water to ensure their health.