Environmental Flows Initiative - summary of projects
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
- Daly Basin Projects
- Environmental flow requirements for Australian arid zone rivers
- Productivity and water flow regulation in the Ord River of northwestern Australia (WA)
- Snowy River benchmarking study (NSW)
- Assessment of the impact of private dams on seasonal flow (Vic)
- Importance of flood flows to the productivity of dryland rivers and their floodplains (Qld)
- Environmental Flow Requirements on the Paroo / Warrego Rivers (NSW)
Daly River, NT
The Daly basin lies within the largest river catchment in the Northern Territory. The presence of reliable flows of good quality water and areas of high agricultural potential soils has resulted in serious consideration being given to water resource and agricultural development in the region.
This area was the focus of the following 5 projects, which provide information to assist in the management of environmental flows required to maintain the biota of the Daly River.
- Inventory and risk assessment of water dependent ecosystems in the Daly Basin;
- Modelling dry season flows and predicting the impact of water extraction on a flagship species (pig nosed turtle);
- Periphyton and phytoplankton (algae) response to dry season flows in the Daly River;
- Environmental flow requirements of Vallisneria nana (ribbon weed); and
- Tree Water Use and Sources of Transpired Water in Riparian Vegetation Along the Daly River, Northern Territory
Further information is provided in:
- Recommended Environmental Water Requirements for the Daly River, Northern Territory, Based on Ecological, Hydrological and Biological Principles - Technical Report No. 4 - 2003
South Cliff Waterhole, SA
This project aimed to increase our understanding of the ecology of arid zone rivers by combining scientific research on selected sites in the Lake Eyre Basin with the knowledge of local communities.
The project involved a field sampling and community consultation program in Queensland and South Australia in the Cooper Creek, Diamantina and Neales River catchments. There were five groups of survey sites spread across these rivers. At each site there were on-ground surveys of aquatic plants and animals, measurements of flow, flood extent and channel shape. There were also aerial surveys of waterbirds. The project sampled key components of the food chain to provide an understanding of the ecological processes that occur in these rivers in response to floods.
a key outcome of the project is a computer model showing the relationships of biological responses to different river flows. The model can assist in predicting the likely biological responses to different water management strategies.
Ord River, WA
The Ord River is increasingly being used for large-scale irrigation. There are concerns regarding the impact of water allocation for proposed additional irrigation requirements, and there is a potential for loss of biodiversity following clearing for sugar production.
The project objectives were to:
- investigate the nature of the historic flow regime in these large floodplain rivers;
- determine the carbon base, and rates of carbon metabolism, of the Ord and control rivers (the Keep, Pentecost and Dunham), determining the relative importance of production within the river and from the riparian zone in 'driving' the ecological processes;
- outline the reproductive cycles and distribution of algal and riparian production;
- compare how the patterns of food-web structure (macroinvertebrates and fish) vary seasonally and spatially in the Ord and control sites;
- determine the environmental water requirements for the ecological processes in the Ord River; and
- devise a monitoring and evaluation strategy to be applied beyond the life of the project.
- Productivity and Water Flow Regulation in the Ord River of North-western Australia Technical Report No. TBA - 2003
Snowy River, NSW
This project provides a baseline of river condition and measured the magnitude and direction of change in a range of response variables (geomorphology, physical habitat, vegetation including macroalgae, benthic macroinvertebrates and fish) following staged environmental flow releases. Project outputs assist in the adaptive management of flows to maximise environmental benefit in the Snowy River.
Project objectives were:
- to provide a scientific quantitative analyses or river response to a staged flow release that will be used to advise the Snowy Scientific Committee of the adaptive management of flows;
- to determine a river condition to manage towards;
- to provide a model for interdisciplinary research into other rivers; and
- to learn more about montane river response to environmental flows.
The impact on the environment of water harvesting by private dams is not well understood. The Assessment of the impact of private dams on seasonal flow project quantifies the impact of private dams on seasonal water flow by updating a simulation model to assist water authorities in assessing applications for new dams and the impacts of existing dams. The project contributed to the Victorian Farm Dams (Irrigation) Review.
Demonstration modelling was completed on 5 small catchments from around Victoria. The findings of the modelling were reported and a user manual produced for the model.
Many Australian dryland rivers are characterised by extensive floodplains and floodwaters can transform vast areas of the arid landscape into temporary wetlands. Floodplain inundation is considered a significant flow event, which may be critically important for river ecosystem function. As well as directly influencing the distribution and abundance of aquatic organisms, river flow regimes have a profound effect on ecosystem processes.
This project assessed the rates of primary production (growth of algal carbon) on the inundated floodplains of rivers in the Channel Country and compared these with known terrestrial rates of production in the surrounding landscape. This comparison will assist in determining how important this production is to both aquatic and terrestrial food webs, and in estimating the importance of floodplain inundation for landscape-scale productivity.
- Importance of Flood Flows to the Productivity of Dryland Rivers & Their Floodplains - Technical Report No. TBA - 2003
The Paroo - Warrego river system is the last unregulated system in the Murray-Darling Basin and supplies the most extensive floodplain wetland area in the Murray-Darling Basin. This system is under threat from water extraction for irrigation uses.
The project objectives were to:
- determine areas of inundation for floods over the last 20 years using remotely sensed data;
- develop a monthly hydrographic model that relates catchment rainfall, river flows and wetland inundation; and
- determine the relationship between wetland inundation and local water bird populations between 1987 and 1990.
The techniques and models developed will assist in the protection of the Ramsar wetlands in the system and assist State Government agencies to determine flooding patterns and gauge the implications of extractive uses for the Warrego and Paroo rivers. The models developed will also assist in the determination of environmental flow requirements for this system.
- Environmental Flows on the Paroo and Warrego Rivers - Technical Report No. TBA - 2003
National reports published under the Environmental Flows Initiative provide an overview of the environmental water requirements of three major ecosystem types, an analysis of threats to these systems and methods for determining adequate water allocations.
- Environmental Water Requirements to Maintain Wetlands of National and International Importance - Technical Report No. 1 - 2001
- Environmental Water Requirements of Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems - Technical Report No. 2 - 2001
- Environmental Water Requirements to Maintain Estuarine Processes - Technical Report No. 3 - 2002