With environmental watering across Riverland floodplains well underway, ecologists from the Department for Environment and Water are already observing a number of positive environmental outcomes.
For the first time, three floodplain regulators at Chowilla, Pike and Katarapko are operating concurrently, along with weir pool raising at Locks 6, 5, 4 and 2, with the work planned to continue through to late November-December 2021.
Program Leader, River and Floodplains Jan Whittle said the operations are designed to support inundation and flow through the floodplains and wetlands and have provided vegetation along the River Murray edges a much-needed drink.
“Floodplain vegetation provides valuable habitat for a range of wildlife and it’s exciting to already be seeing positive responses thanks to this water for the environment,” Jan said.
“Water is filling creeks and flow paths, inundating areas of low lying floodplain boosting the condition of the vegetation and providing important habitat for wildlife.
“Waterbird and frog activity is being seen and heard across all the three floodplains. It is exciting to hear species like the vulnerable Southern Bell Frogs calling at a number of wetlands across the inundated areas.
“Many bird species have been spotted enjoying the watering including Australian Shelducks, Pied Cormorants, Australasian Darters, and Australian Wood Ducks.
“At Chowilla the newly wet areas of floodplain and wetlands are creating habitat attracting several species of small wading birds including two migratory species, Red-necked Stints and Sharp-tail Sandpipers, that have arrived from the northern hemisphere.“
Jan explained that the Chowilla Creek regulator will raise water levels up to 3.5 metres above normal levels, inundating approximately 4,000-6,500 hectares of floodplain and wetlands.
“With the current good flow conditions in the river, water levels in the Pike floodplain creeks will be raised by up to 1.25 metres higher than normal water levels, 55 centimetres higher than the watering achieved in 2020. This will provide water to areas of the floodplain that have not been watered since 2016,” Jan said.
“Katarapko watering is also progressing well with lots of water connecting the wetlands and floodplain to the main River Murray system. The Splash regulator will be raised by three metres above normal water levels during this event.”
The operations are supported by water for the environment provided by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and The Living Murray, as well as by the natural flows from upstream rainfall.
There are some short term access restrictions and closures of some roads, trails and campsites due to the environmental watering at Katarapko and Chowilla. The public can be guided by appropriate safety and hazard signage through the park and game reserve.
For more information on these restrictions please visit: https://www.parks.sa.gov.au or contact the Berri Regional Office on 08 8595 211.
The public can track real time water quality information at various locations in the River and floodplains via the Water Data SA web portal https://water.data.sa.gov.au
The Living Murray is a joint initiative funded by the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian, Australian Capital Territory and Commonwealth governments, coordinated by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority.
The environmental infrastructure, delivered through the South Australian Riverland Floodplains Integrated Infrastructure Program (SARFIIP), provides the opportunity to deliver water for the environment to support the health and resilience of these key wetlands and floodplains.
SARFIIP is a $155 million investment program funded by the Australian Government and implemented by the South Australian Government to improve the watering and management of River Murray floodplains in the Riverland.