Environment SA News

World Wetlands Day an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of increased River Murray flows

South Australian communities along the River Murray and Lower Lakes and Coorong have much to celebrate this World Wetlands Day as La Nina continues to drive much needed flow to the river system following three years of dry conditions across the Murray-Darling Basin.

World Wetlands Day an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of increased River Murray flows
Pied Stilts at Coombool Swamp on the Chowilla floodplain. (Photo courtesy of Helga Kieskamp)

World Wetlands Day is celebrated on 2 February each year to mark the anniversary of the first international Convention on Wetlands in Ramsar, Iran in 1971.

The focus of this year’s campaign is an appeal to invest financial, human and political capital to save the world’s wetlands from disappearing and to restore those that have degraded.

Manager Environmental Water from the Department for Environment and Water, Tony Herbert, said World Wetlands Day is particularly important in the Murray Darling Basin where half of South Australia’s Ramsar-listed are located.

“Despite recent improvements in conditions thanks largely to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, as well as community and government efforts, large areas of floodplain and many wetlands remain stressed and in need of high flows,” Tony said.

“Fortunately, we’ve had some positive results recently with strong River Murray flows supplemented by flows from the Hume Dam, the Darling (Baaka), Murrumbidgee and Goulburn rivers resulting in sustained high in-channel flows in South Australia over spring and summer.

These natural flows, driven by rainfall in the catchment, have been boosted by additional releases of water for the environment from several locations upstream.

“These boosts in river flow have been really important in allowing fish to migrate between rivers and in transporting nutrients and small invertebrates, which supports the successful breeding of native fish such as golden and silver perch.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve seen an extended period of good flows like this through spring and summer and some of our wetlands and floodplains along the Murray have responded in spectacular fashion.”

Tony said a number of wetlands along the Murray have re re-connected to the main river thanks to the increased flows.

“Increased flows have meant the environmental infrastructure on managed floodplains at Chowilla, Pike and Katarapko could be operated and weir pools raised to generate broad scale floodplain and wetland inundation,” Tony said.

“This has delivered a range of positive outcomes for native flora and fauna, including migratory birds, fish and threatened frog species.

“While the flows have not been sufficient to provide significant inundation across other floodplains, they have connected up wetlands and flow paths and provided real benefits to the lower level floodplains along the river channel.”

Tony said landholders and fishermen around the Lower Lakes and Coorong region have reported increases in swans, cormorants and pelicans, as aquatic plants and fish stocks respond to freshwater flows and higher water levels.

The Department for Environment and Water is committed to protecting the state’s River Murray wetlands and works with partner agencies such as SA Water, the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to deliver water for the environment in conjunction with natural flows.

You can find more information about water for the environment and the outcomes of the recent watering on the DEW website.