With the support of natural high flows currently in the River Murray, the Department for Environment and Water (DEW) will commence environmental watering of the Chowilla, Pike and potentially Katarapko floodplains this month, through operation of environmental regulators.
The operations will deliver much needed environmental water to the floodplains to restore the health and resilience of the landscapes into the future.
Program Leader, River and Floodplains with the Department for Environment and Water Jan Whittle explained that watering supports the floodplain vegetation and provides feeding and breeding habitat for wildlife including a range of birds and frogs. The watering moves carbon and nutrients from the floodplain to the river providing resources for the riverine food webs.
Jan said weir pools at Locks 6, 5 and 4, will also be raised during the environmental watering to assist with water flow onto floodplains and wetlands upstream as well as on to the floodplains at Chowilla, Pike and Katarapko
“We expect the watering events to continue during spring and into early summer.”
Jan noted that the good River flows are already providing water across large areas of Katarapko and so commencing the operation of the watering infrastructure at that site and Lock 4 is dependent on what happens with flows in the coming weeks.
“Water levels at the locks will be increased at a rate of approximately two centimetres per day during the raising phase. Once the locks and the floodplain environmental regulators reach the targeted watering height it will remain at that level for a period of time before returning back to normal level,” Jan said.
“The environmental watering will improve soil moisture conditions along creek banks and across wetlands and floodplains, improving tree condition and regeneration of floodplain trees and understorey vegetation over several thousand hectares.
Weir pool raising at Lock 2 by 55 centimetres above normal pool level is also planned to commence later in July along with smaller weir pool raising events within the normal operating ranges at Locks 1, and 3.
“Raising of water levels generates soil and groundwater freshening along the river banks, supporting growth of trees and other vegetation and improving habitat for a range of wildlife” Jan said.
“Good flow conditions are continuing in the River Murray providing fantastic benefits for the environment. River conditions and all environmental watering activities will be closely monitored with management adapted as flow conditions change.”
National parks in these areas will remain open to the public where possible. Depending on the scale of operation or high flows, a number of campsites and access tracks will need to be closed during part of the operation. Visit www.parks.sa.gov.aufor more information.
The operations are supported by water for the environment provided by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and The Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s The Living Murray program.
This project is contributing to enhanced environmental outcomes on a local scale which will complement environmental watering activities which have been made possible under the Basin Plan.
To stay informed about River Murray operations, weir pool manipulation and environmental watering visit: www.environment.sa.gov.au/topics/river-murray/river-management-information/flow-reports