Water Matters - Issue 10
130,000 seedlings will be hand-planted by the community
More than 5,000 hectares of revegetation works taking place between May-August
Students from the Eastern Fleurieu School, Milang Campus and a revegetation officer from the Goolwa to Wellington Local Action Planning Association
More than fifteen community groups of the Lower Lakes will join forces from June to August, hand-planting almost 130,000 seedlings at the foreshore and wetland areas of Lakes Alexandrina and Albert in South Australia as part of bioremediation work.
This mighty effort will require volunteers to lend more than just a hand to plant at least 10,000 seedlings a week, to revegetate the internationally-recognised Ramsar wetland.
Wendy White, Coordinator at the Lakes Hub, said volunteers from community organisations, conservation and environmental groups, as well as schools, had submitted expressions of interest to carry out the hand-planting.
“The Lower Lakes is a unique location, where our largest river system exits to the sea,” Ms White said.
“I think for the community, the Lower Lakes represents a place where people can gather for family and social outings.
“The Lakes also hold a lot of historical and community value. Involving local people to plant 130,000 seedlings is a great chance for them to contribute their time and effort to the Lower Lakes recovery.”
The plants, propagated by local and Ngarrindjeri nurseries, are ready to go. Teams of people from local community organisations and Ngarrindjeri groups will work together during the next three months to plant around 2,000 seedlings each day.
The Lakes Hub, Goolwa to Wellington Local Action Planning Board and Rural Solutions SA will coordinate community involvement.
In addition to the community planting, contracting parties will take part in lake bed stabilisation and bioremediation activities, with 1.1 million seedlings planted by hand and 300 tonnes of aerial seeding already taking place over 5,000 hectares of lake beds.
These activities are being organised by Rural Solutions SA, with more than 400,000 seedlings already planted over 3,000 hectares adding to the successful 5,000 hectares of aerial and machine seeding in May last year.
The seeding project is part of a $10 million bioremediation and revegetation project providing ecosystem stability and resilience, stabilising soils and suppressing dust movement. The planting also helps manage acid sulfate soils, improve biodiversity in treated areas and contribute to the long-term management of the wetland, which is a significant site for migratory birds.
The Australian Government is funding the project in collaboration with the Department for Environment and Heritage (DEH) in South Australia.
For more information or to get involved in the project, contact the DEH Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth Projects Team on 1800 226 709, email email@example.com or visit www.environment.sa.gov.au/cllmm/
The Australian Government is working with state and territory governments to develop a National Water Market System that will improve the efficiency of water registers and transactions and the availability of market information.
The National Water Market System (NWMS) project is a Council of Australian Governments water reform initiative. Through Water for the Future, the Australian Government is investing $56 million to develop the NWMS.
The National Water Market System project
National Water Market System - strengthening Australia’s water market through efficient management of state and territory water registers, water transactions and market information.
- The National Water Market System will strengthen Australia’s water market through efficient management of improved state and territory water registers, water transactions and availability of market information.
- The NWMS will provide water accounting and market information and help record of water entitlements and transactions.
The NWMS will ensure:
- up-to-date information about the water market is easily accessible and readily available, increasing market transparency and allowing for more informed water trading decisions
- that each jurisdiction has a high-performing water register that accurately records water rights and supports water accounting and resource management
- transaction times for trades and other dealings are not limited by water register processes or functions.
For more information visit: www.nationalwatermarket.gov.au
Water purchasing to restore Murray-Darling Basin rivers and wetlands will receive a boost from July with an additional $100 million in funding brought forward for next financial year.
An example of the benefits environmental watering has had at Yanga National Park
The measure, announced in the Federal Budget delivered on 11 May, will enable the Commonwealth to purchase more water entitlements for the environment under the Australian Government’s Restoring the Balance in the Murray-Darling Basin program in 2010-11.
A total of $3.1 billion has been committed to water purchasing under the Government’s long-term Water for the Future initiative. The budget funding takes the amount available for water purchases next financial year to $308.8 million.
As as 30 April 2010, the Government had secured the purchase of 803 billion litres of water entitlements, worth almost $1.3 billion, for the Murray-Darling Basin.
The latest tender rounds in the Lower Balonne and in the southern Basin closed on 21 May. Results are expected shortly. Details of water purchase initiatives in 2010-11 are yet to be announced.
The Minister for Water, Senator Penny Wong, said: “For too long we have taken too much water out of the Basin’s rivers, and this funding will ensure we continue to reduce our take on the rivers.
“We must address the challenges of drought and the emerging effects of climate change, while reversing decades of over-allocation and mismanagement in the Basin.”
We are already seeing the benefits of purchasing water entitlements for the environment in the Murray-Darling Basin. As result of the water purchases made so far, around 110 billion litres of water has been available for delivery to environmental sites in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales in the past two years. (See adjacent article)
The program is being complemented by significant investment in new and more efficient irrigation infrastructure that helps irrigators do more with less water, ensuring the long-term viability of irrigation communities.
A word from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is preparing the Basin Plan, a strategic plan for the integrated and sustainable management of water resources across the whole Basin. The draft is scheduled for release in 2010 with a formal public consultation process to follow, of at least 16 weeks.
Danny O'Brien (National Irrigators' Council), Roger Hoare (High Security Irrigators Murrumbidgee) and Jenny McLeod (Murray Irrigation Ltd) at the recent Murray-Darling Basin Authority forum for stakeholders.
Photo: Tanja Funnell, MDBA
In April this year, the MDBA held a forum with peak bodies, government and science agencies, as well as workshops with the Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations and Murray Lower Darling River Indigenous Nations, to discuss key elements of the draft Basin Plan. A summary of the forum can be found at www.mdba.gov.au/communities/meetings-events/april-forum
At the forum the MDBA released the report Assessing environmental water needs of the Basin. The report outlines how the MBDA has identified key environmental assets (rivers, lakes, wetlands, marshes, swamps and floodplains) and key ecosystem functions, which is the first step in determining environmentally sustainable levels of water to take.
Identifying environmental water requirements
Assessing the environmental water requirements of the Murray-Darling Basin involves:
- identifying the key environmental assets and ecosystem functions
- determining their water requirements
- inputting these to the modelling platform to generate possible sustainable diversion limit (SDL) scenarios at both Basin and regional scale
- assessing the socio-economic impact (using the SDL scenarios), which may influence judgements on the scale and origin of environmental water requirements and can be used to generate alternate SDL scenarios.
The environmental assets have never before been identified and in many cases their water needs have never been assessed. Similarly, the water needs of ecosystem functions that shape the Basin’s unique ecosystems have not previously been considered at a Basin scale, although they are increasingly recognised locally.
To determine the key environmental assets, and ecosystem functions, five criteria have been used. One or more of the criteria must be met for the environmental asset to be considered ‘key’. The criteria are:
- has recognised significance (e.g. international agreements)
- is natural, near-natural, rare or unique
- provides vital habitat (e.g. drought refuges, breeding sites)
- supports threatened species
- contains sites of high biodiversity.
In determining the water requirements for all the environmental assets in the Basin, it became apparent that many were hydrologically related and their water requirements overlapped i.e. the flows required for one key environmental asset will provide water for other assets, both upstream and downstream.
Using this knowledge the Murray-Darling Basin Authority identified 18 ‘indicator’ assets. Most of the assets are large, have a broad range of habitat types and are located low within their corresponding catchments.
It is important to note the preliminary nature of the information which has been released. It will be refined further and form an important part of our consultation with stakeholders.
Throughout the consultation period of the Basin Plan, the MDBA will travel extensively throughout the Basin to provide an overview of the draft plan, explain the process for public consultation and submissions, answer questions, listen to the views of people who will be affected by the Basin Plan and ensure people have access to information to assist them in putting in submissions.
For further information, to get a copy of the report, or to find out how to comment on the proposed Basin Plan contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1800 230 067 (free). To subscribe to our email distribution list and/or e-Letter go to www.mdba.gov.au/media_centre/subscribe
For information about Assessing environmental water needs of the Basin visit: www.mdba.gov.au/services/publications/more-information?publicationid=56
The community information sessions aim to provide an opportunity for attendees to better understand the Australian Government’s Water for the Future initiative and to raise issues of concern.
Senior Departmental representative, Tony Slatyer speaking at the community information session in Murray Bridge in April.
Feedback from participants of previous sessions has been positive. Much of the success has been attributed to the open format, which allows plenty of time for people to ask questions of senior staff about the issues which are important to them such as water purchasing, infrastructure upgrade programs and environmental watering.
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry will also attend the upcoming sessions to answer questions relating to the Basin Plan and drought assistance measures.
For more information or to register, call 1800 218 478 or visit: www.environment.gov.au/water/australia/community-input/information-sessions.html
|Wednesday, 16 June 2010||The Crossing Theatre, 117 Tibbereena Street, Narrabri|
|Thursday, 17 June 2010||Toowoomba Motel & Events Centre, 2 Burnage St, Toowoomba|
|Friday, 18 June 2010||Dubbo RSL Club Resort, Cnr Brisbane and Wingewarra Sts, Dubbo|
In April, the Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water, Senator Penny Wong made her third tour of the Murray-Darling Basin, visiting St George, Dubbo, Coleambally and Swan Hill.
The Minister on the banks of the Macquarie River in Dubbo with Tenandra Scheme chairman, Gus O'Brien, Marthaguy Irrigation Scheme chairman Nick Brennan and Simon Hunt, Chairman of the Trangie Nevertire irrigation scheme.
The Minister met with key water stakeholders including irrigators, farmers, peak industry grower groups, community groups and local government.
Discussions focused on progress made under the Australian Government’s Water for the Future initiative, the development of the Basin Plan, and how best to continue to deliver on the Australian Government’s vision of a strong and vibrant future for the Basin’s agricultural and environmental communities.
During her tour, the Minister also made number of significant announcements to help strengthen basin communities and improve irrigation infrastructure and river health in the Basin.
“Across the Murray-Darling Basin, many communities are feeling the impacts of extended drought and the effects of climate change,” Senator Wong said.
“As we move the Murray-Darling Basin to a more sustainable footing, it’s important that we learn from the experiences of local communities.”
Do you have an interesting story about a wetland in your region?
The 2011 Wetlands Australia - National Wetlands Update, is an annual publication bringing together information and resources from across Australia relating to wetlands conservation, management and education.
Contributed articles are welcome for consideration in the 2011 Wetlands Australia - National Wetlands Update. Articles could cover environmental issues (as the 2011 issue is themed "Wetlands and Forests"), the latest scientific research, and conservation success stories. The aim is to include all states and territories and all wetland types.
If you would like to contribute (500-1000 words by 5th August), please contact Jennifer Andrew on 02 6239 1955 or email@example.com
For past issues of Wetlands Australia visit: www.environment.gov.au/water/publications/environmental/wetlands/wa18.html
Lake Eyre in flood is always a spectacular site. The flooding in 2009 transformed the inland. In a true demonstration of the unpredictability of the ‘boom-and-bust’ cycle of flooding in the Lake Eyre Basin, in March this year the rains fell across the Queensland channel country and the Cooper Creek river system, causing a second spectacular flood event in as many years.
Diamantina River in flood
Photo: Stuart Bunn
This time the Ramsar-listed Coongie Lakes, at the lower end of the Cooper Creek system, were inundated, mirroring the explosion of life seen in the floods of the previous year.
Below are impressions of last year’s flooding from people who live and work in the Basin, collected for the Lake Eyre Basin 2010 Ministers’ Report to the Community.
Richard Kingsford, waterbird and wetland ecologist, University of NSW and member of the LEB Scientific Advisory Panel
“The rain fell in a deluge around Mount Isa in January and February 2009, triggering the start of a spectacular flood, predominantly confined to the Georgina and Diamantina River systems, eventually reaching Lake Eyre in May. As with all floods, there was a magnificent ecological response which proved to be a magnet for tourism as people, like waterbirds, flocked to the wetlands.
The flood spread out over the vast floodplains of Eyre Creek, filling its lakes and swamps. Waterbirds arrived almost immediately by means largely unknown to us - perhaps detecting changes in air pressure, smell and experience of the landscape. Largely invisible to us, the microscopic organisms increase exponentially, ultimately underpinning the entire food web.
The boom in food resources brought in more than a million waterbirds which inevitably bred in up to 25 colonies.
Even though about 70 per cent of the area of Lake Eyre was inundated, this was insufficient water to reduce salinity to levels suitable for invertebrates, fish and waterbirds to establish in large numbers. Nonetheless, one pelican colony was observed.
The event demonstrated how incredibly important the floods in the Lake Eyre Basin are for the long-term sustainability of the environment, the people and the economy.”
Joc Schmiechen has travelled the Basin extensively and represents tourism interests on the LEB Community Advisory Committee.
“The flooding of Lake Eyre again provided a major stimulus for travellers to the heart of the Basin, with flow-on benefits along the classic travel routes and tracks taken by visitors from the eastern states. Extensive media coverage fuelled the interest and brought in the numbers. The perennial issues of access, use of firewood and impacts on sensitive areas remain as challenges to be tackled on a cross-jurisdictional scale.
“One of the prime emerging hotspots remains the Simpson Desert. Visitor traffic in this area shows no sign of abatement with travellers seeking to experience this icon. The baby boomer retiree traffic seems to be continuing unabated, with general drive and off-road tourism increasing in most of the prime tourism locations in the Basin.”
Sharon Oldfield runs Cowarie Station on the Warburton Creek in South Australia, north east of Lake Eyre. This is how she saw the floods.
“The extended drought had put even the hardest resolve to the test. Away from the floodplain, nothing grew and the dust storms were terribly challenging.
Witnessing nature’s response to the floodwater after such a long drought, affects you spiritually. When the Warburton River began rising up over the floodplain we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces. We had forgotten how quickly the country could respond by just adding water. Water-life and birds were almost immediately abundant, and the pasture raced to grow and set seed.
It was a fantastic event for my children to witness. It gave us hope, and the ability to make management decisions based on optimism rather than uncertainty.
The flurry of tourists to the region was very challenging for locals. To manage tourist access throughout the property we had to put things in place to encourage good camping practices; provide a safe and enjoyable experience; minimise the impact on daily business operations and damage to tracks and pasture. Low flying aircraft filled the skies, buzzing cattle on the floodplain and making stock management very difficult. Local accommodation, refuse dumps and other services were seriously over-stretched and the community was quite exhausted by the end of the season.
Better management of the tourist surge in future flood events needs careful planning, without denying anyone the opportunity to marvel at this truly miraculous natural event.”
The Lake Eyre Basin 2010 Ministers’ Report to the Community can be viewed: www.lebmf.gov.au
An often advanced solution to Australia’s water problem is the notion of piping it from the north.
A short booklet, Moving water long distances: Grand schemes or pipe dreams?, is to be issued by the Department in coming weeks to explore all the issues this idea gives rise to. It looks at the costs and benefits of various options as well as other alternatives for securing our water supplies into the future.
The booklet will increase understanding about the complexity of this issue and generate a more informed basis for future debate.
Download your copy from www.environment.gov.au/water. Hard copies can also be requested via email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1800 218 478.
CSIRO has developed a model that will help water managers maximise the benefits of environmental watering in the Murray-Darling Basin.
The model is one component of a research project that was funded by the National Water Commission and looked at ecological outcomes of flow regimes in the Murray-Darling Basin.
The research confirmed the poor ecological health of much of the Basin. The model revealed only 25 per cent of the six million hectares of active floodplain had been inundated to some extent in the past nine years.
One of the report’s authors, CSIRO environmental scientist Mr Ian Overton said: “This highlights that the recent period of dry conditions has had serious implications across a significant portion of the floodplain.”
Mr Overton said the information provided in the study would help water managers improve and justify delivery of environmental water to ‘icon sites’, including wetlands of international significance such as the Macquarie Marshes, Gwydir Wetlands and Narran Lakes.
A major outcome from the project was the Murray-Darling Basin Floodplain Inundation Model, which for the first time provides a tool to assess and predict changes in floodplain habitat, wetland connectivity and ecosystem health in response to flooding regimes.
Water managers can use the information to improve the planning and delivery of watering regimes and flow management strategies, ensuring water flows can be tailored to maximise environmental outcomes.
The research was supported by National Water Commission under the Australian Government’s Raising National Water Standards Program.
The report can be viewed at: www.csiro.au/resources/Ecological-Outcomes-of-Flow-Regimes-Report.html
Questacon’s new exhibit, Our Water, was launched by Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water, Senator Penny Wong on Friday 14 May 2010.
Senator Penny Wong at the launch of Questacon's new exhibit, Our Water
Photo: National Water Commission
Highlighting the issues and innovative solutions involved in ensuring that all Australians have enough water for the future, Our Water provides opportunities to learn more about the issues facing our cities, towns and farming communities, and to think about our environmental water needs.
It also challenges school groups and other visitors to consider what actions we can take to use water more wisely - in our industries and agricultural practices, and as individuals and households.
Our Water, a $1.7 million travelling exhibition funded by the National Water Commission, is made up of 28 interactive exhibits that explore ways to save water around the house, smart irrigation systems, and the innovative technologies available for stormwater reuse and water recycling.
The exhibition will be at Questacon -The National Science and Technology Centre in Canberra - until August 2010, when it will then travel around Australia to 14 locations over the next two years.
For more information visit: