Ongoing partnership sustains SA wetlands

Posted 26 October 2020.

For more than two decades, the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board (formerly the South Australia Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board) has been protecting key wetland sites along the South Australia River Murray.

During this time, the board have enjoyed a long-standing partnership with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO), delivering critically important water for the environment to these significant wetland sites.

This close working relationship has recently been extended with the signing of a new five-year partnership agreement between the two organisations.

Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board Wetlands Team Leader Darren Willis said the natural variable flows of the River Murray have changed due to river regulation, initially for navigation and later to support large-scale water diversions.

“Many wetlands along the river corridor do not receive the regular inundation (wetting) they need without some deliberate management action,” Mr Willis said.

Each year the Board’s Wetlands Team plan and manage watering of dozens of wetland sites to replicate natural wetting and drying patterns.

This supports both aquatic and floodplain habitats for the many species (fish, frogs, birds and insects) that depend upon them, and for locals who enjoy fishing, camping and exploring them.

“This work isn’t confined to dry periods, there is ongoing effort by the Wetlands Team to ensure these significant sites can bounce back after harsh climatic conditions occur.”

Mr Willis said last year, we achieved some fantastic outcomes, supported by environmental water provided by the CEWO. We saw significant increases in breeding and recruitment of the threatened Southern bell frog at many sites in the Riverland.

“Many wild habitat sites for the threatened Murray hardyhead were protected, and vital waterbird habitat around Lake Alexandrina was expanded.

“These results show us that the water is making a real difference,” Mr Willis said.

In early autumn, both irrigators and environmental water managers were looking towards 2020/21 with a sense of concern that we were entering into another very dry and challenging year.

Then the long-range projections began to change and some good rains across large areas of the basin led to improved inflows and increasing storage volumes and a more positive outlook for both industry and the environment.

These good rains have boosted the spirits of irrigators and environmental water holders.

The irrigation and environmental water sectors are aligned in how they contemplate risks, watching the same climate and water availability forecasts and consider the efficient and effective use of their limited water resources.

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder Jody Swirepik said this partnership is a great example of how environmental water deliveries are carefully planned and delivered, using relevant science and local wetland management experience.

“Water for the environment is making a real difference to the long term health of wetlands up and down the River Murray system,” she said.

The 2020/21 environmental watering program is underway with 36 wetland complexes, large and small, on the schedule for filling during spring and top-ups over the summer months.

This ongoing effort is supported by Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, and the planning and implementation are supported Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program and the landscape levies.


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