The formal allocation of water for the environment is a developing area of river management both scientifically and in terms of community participation. This case study, illustrating the recent use of the Barmah-Millewa Forest Environmental Water Allocation (EWA), provides a practical demonstration of community participation in environmental water management, the application of hydrological and biological “triggers” and a positive, demonstrable biological outcome from an environmental water allocation. The Barmah-Millewa Forest covers an area of 70,000 ha across the floodplain of the Murray River, upstream of the town of Echuca. About half the forest is in NSW (Millewa) and half is in Victoria (Barmah). The Barmah Forest is a Wetland of International Importance listed under the Convention on Wetlands - Ramsar Convention. The forest is the largest river redgum forest in the world. The natural flooding cycle associated with the forest has been significantly altered by regulation of the Murray River - impacting upon the overall health of the forest ecosystem. Recognising this, the Murray Darling Basin Commission developed a water management strategy for the forest to enhance forest, fish and wildlife values. To implement this strategy, between 1990 and 1993 reports were completed and community consultation took place. In 1993 the Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council approved allocation of 100 Gigalitres of water per year, provided in equal shares by NSW and Victoria, to meet the needs of the forest ecosystem and in 1994 the Barmah-Millewa Forum was established under the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement. The vision for the Forum is to maintain and, where possible, improve the ecological and productive sustainability of the Barmah-Millewa Forest and to establish a planning and operational framework to better meet the flooding and drying requirements of the riparian forests and wetlands. Between October 2000 and January 2001 the Barmah-Millewa Forest Environmental Water Allocation was used for the second time. A total of 341 GL was released as an EWA. This amount represented only 8% of the total flows downstream of Yarrawonga Weir from September 2000 and January 2001. The strategic use of the relatively small amount of water enabled flooding to be maintained and ensured significant breeding success for water birds and other biota in the Forest.

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