ABC report

Photo: With extra water available for the environment in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, residents are concerned environmental flows will damage the river system.

Water that was bought to save the environment in the Murray-Darling Basin may be damaging it.

A resident living on the banks of the Goulburn River says because of recent environmental flow events, he’s watching the banks of the river fall apart.

David Miles, a pig farmer from Kotupna, says the use of the water in summer rather than winter has damaged the river system.

He says up to three metres of river banks have fallen into the water already, and if authorities don’t change how they are using water, they are risking more damage.

“All perennial grasses and annual grasses are dying,” he said.

“The acacias up to the level the environmental flows reached are now all dead.

“I don’t think that would have been their choice, but now the bank is slipping in and eroding.

“It’s eroded more in just over 12 months than it did in just over 27 years.”

Other residents in the region have also complained about damage, but flows are only going to become more frequent.

Under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, at least 2,750 gigalitres of water will be available for use as environmental flow.

That is a much larger amount than authorities have had in the past.

The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority is responsible for the delivery of environmental water in northern Victoria and says it’s still learning about the impacts from flows.

It has set up cameras to monitor damage in the lower Goulburn.

However, CEO Chris Norman says environmental water will change the river system.

“There has always been impacts on the streams through any flows, so it’s actually a natural event that the river is affected by flows up and down.

“So you do see slumping and erosion, it’s quite a natural process.”

Mr Miles says it is almost impossible to repair the damage.

“The river is going to get bigger and bigger, which it doesn’t need to do. Trees that wouldn’t have fallen in are starting to fall in now.

“I just hope that somebody sees that this is a real disaster.”