Hattah Lakes Floodplain Management Project

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Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) has been undertaking the rehabilitation of the drought-affected Hattah Lakes for a number of years, and GHD is proud to be associated with this important environmental project.

This has been a visionary project developed over years of planning, implemented by GMW, as the construction agency for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, designed by GHD, and under the direction of the Mallee Catchment Management Authority. It has been a sustained effort to restore ecological function to the lakes.

One of Australia’s most important cultural and ecologically significant habitats, this system of ephemeral freshwater lakes within the Murray-Darling Basin in northwest Victoria, near Mildura, was approaching ecological collapse in 2004. The Hattah Lakes complex is part of the 48,000 hectare Hattah-Kulkyne National Park. Chalka Creek connects the lakes to the Murray River, however, river regulation and a drying climate has meant the lakes’ natural flooding pattern occurs less frequently and for shorter duration. This has led to threatened species disappearing, cultural sites being exposed, and old-growth river red gum communities coming under severe water stress and dying.

In 2004, GMW undertook emergency action to return water to the system. The early emergency watering events from 2004 to 2006 saw as many as seven temporary diesel pumps on tandem trailers parked on the river bank, each pumping 20 megalitres (ML) a day from the river into Chalka Creek, then to the lakes, almost 20 km away.

Returning water to the system was just the beginning. The environment responded to the emergency watering program, providing environmental agencies with the opportunity and time to explore other options, test concepts and plan a long-term solution.

The vision is to restore a more natural wetting and drying regime to Hattah Lakes and, in doing so, develop a long-term, sustainable solution and water regime targeted at specific ecological objectives, to secure the lakes’ future.

Today, Hattah Lakes are receiving sufficient water to commence the recovery process, due to the installation of integrated environmental water infrastructure, designed by GHD, which allows efficient delivery, control and re-use of precious environmental water.