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Managing water levels in the Lower Lakes

The Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth (CLLMM) area has high ecological, social and economic significance to South Australia. Five barrages were constructed near Goolwa to prevent salt water entering into the Lower Lakes and Lower River Murray. Today the barrages are used to help manage water levels in the Lower Lakes and to help deliver freshwater to the Coorong and estuary.

In the past, these barrages maintained water levels to protect irrigation and River boat navigation, but this negatively impacted the wetlands and floodplains, which need natural cycles of wetting and drying to remain healthy. Under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and The Living Murray Program, more water has been delivered to South Australia for environmental use. This has resulted in multiple benefits to South Australia but has also increased the complexity around managing water in the Coorong and Lower Lakes.

The department is committed to providing the best outcomes through the delivery and management of this water. The Variable Lakes Project is using the best available CLLMM site research and knowledge around water level management to develop a Barrage and water level management policy and a Barrage operating strategy. In developing the policy and strategy, the department is extensively consulting with stakeholders and the broader community to ensure best outcomes. This includes valuable input provided by the Ngarrindjeri, the traditional owners of the CLLMM site, and various other community groups and scientific advisors. A comprehensive body of knowledge will be compiled to inform and support the development of the policy and strategy. This information will be available on the Coorong and Lakes Ramsar Wetland Portal.

Barrage and Water Level Management Policy

This policy will guide water level and barrage management and include optimal water levels to get the best environmental, social, economic and water security outcomes, while managing associated risks and trade-offs.

Barrage Operating Strategy

This strategy will guide the operation of the barrages to achieve ecological outcomes for the Lower Lakes and Coorong. The strategy will include management tools, rules and procedures for the operation of barrages under different operating conditions. The strategy will provide formal decision making processes for transparent and efficient management of barrage operations.

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