Two major monitoring projects, led by researchers from Charles Sturt University (CSU)’s Institute for Land, Water and Society (ILWS) www.csu.edu.au/research/ilws/
and funded by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office, will help governments and managers deliver environmental water to maximise environmental benefits in the Murray-Darling Basin.
The projects will demonstrate the benefits of environmental watering in the Edward-Wakool and Murrumbidgee river systems in southern NSW.
“What we are finding out is greatly assisting water managers in making decisions about current and future environmental water releases in the Murray-Darling Basin,” said Associate Professor Robyn Watts who leads the Institute’s Sustainable Water research group and heads up the project on the Edward-Wakool system.
The two projects will provide for the continued monitoring and assessment of the ecological responses to environmental watering in the Edward-Wakool and Murrumbidgee river systems over the next 12 months.
“The Australian Government is committed to providing water to the environment in the Murray-Darling Basin, to protect and restore rivers and wetlands.
“These projects will continue to show the Australian community what is being achieved for the environment with that water. What we learn will also help improve the management of environmental water in the future.”
The Edward-Wakool river system, a major anabranch of the Murray River, has populations of many native aquatic species, including threatened and endangered fish, frogs, mammals, and plants. Environmental water in this system is used to provide pulsed flows in the river channels to sustain and improve the health of these important ecosystems.
This project is a world leading example of an integrated multi-disciplinary environmental watering project, bringing together information on a wide range of ecosystem components.
“The focus of the monitoring project in the Edward-Wakool system is on the benefit to native fish, the river ecosystem’s health and the food webs that support this ecosystem,” Professor Watts said.
“The health of native fish in the Edward-Wakool system is of particular interest to the community. This project is monitoring spawning, recruitment, growth and movement of fish in response to flows and this will help inform the adaptive management and delivery of environmental water.”
See more on the Edward-Wakool ecological response monitoring project here
The Murrumbidgee River monitoring project is led by ILWS researcher Dr Skye Wassens and will cover a large area, for 400 kilometres, from below the Burrinjuck and Blowering dams to the end of the Murrumbidgee west of Balranald.
“We will look at how the Murrumbidgee River and connected wetlands respond to the release of environmental water. Much previous watering along the Murrumbidgee has been about getting water into the wetlands and the Lower Murrumbidgee to trigger breeding in native fish, frog and bird populations,” Dr Wassens said.
“The middle and lower reaches of the Murrumbidgee have nationally significant wetlands and critical habitat for waterbird breeding and endangered frogs such as the Southern Bell Frog. The River channel still has populations of endangered native fish species including Trout Cod and Silver Perch. Our monitoring will look at how all these populations respond to environmental watering.
“We want to develop a comprehensive picture of what happens at different times and in different places during environmental flow events, and so improve decisions affecting these flows.”
See more on the Murrumbidgee River ecological response monitoring project here
Both projects build on previous work in the two river systems undertaken by research teams led by Professor Watts and Dr Wassens. Both projects continue to be commissioned and funded by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office with in-kind contributions from partner organisations.
Professor Watts believes Australia is leading the world in terms of delivering environmental water to sustain river environments.
“Understanding the links between different ecosystem components in our river environment will greatly improve our knowledge around what happens when you deliver environmental water. This will also assist other environmental watering programs across the world,” Professor Watts said.