Environment SA News

Viewing new knowledge through a fresh lens

The health of freshwater soaks along the Younghusband Peninsula is the focus of a collaborative study commissioned by the Department for Environment and Water (DEW) as part of the Healthy Coorong, Healthy Basin program.

A picture of thick green vegetation in a sand dune on the Younghusband Peninsula
Photo: Daniel Lloyd

What is a soak?

A soak, or soakage, is a source of water often stored below ground, sometimes as part of an ephemeral river or creek. The name ‘soak’ refers to the way water seeps into the sand.

Freshwater soaks of the Younghusband Peninsula

Many freshwater soaks exist throughout the Younghusband Peninsula and provide a critical source of fresh water for Coorong fauna like kangaroos, emus and other coastal and woodland bird species.

The freshwater soaks are created by a freshwater lens that sits between the Coorong and the Southern Ocean (refer diagram below).

Viewing new knowledge through a fresh lens
Cross section of Younghusband Penninsula indicating the perched freshwater lens between the Southern Ocean and Coorong lagoon. Adapted from Von der Borch CC, Lock D & Schwebel D. 1975. Ground-water formation of dolomite in the Coorong region of South Australia. Geology (May): 283-285.

Monitoring the condition and status of freshwater soaks

Ngarrindjeri and First Nations of the South East are the Traditional Owners of the Coorong and have maintained soaks and groundwater upwellings in the Coorong region for thousands of years. Caring for the health and wellbeing of these soaks is an incredibly important part of First Nations obligations in caring for Country.

The freshwater soak study is led by Ngarrindjeri and First Nations of the South East in partnership with DEW and Flinders University. The project aims bring local, Cultural Knowledge and perspectives together to address critical knowledge gaps in the condition and status of the region’s freshwater soaks.

Running from late 2023 to mid-2024, the study will play a key role in informing management actions aimed at improving the long-term health of the region, particularly in the face of a changing climate. The impacts on freshwater soaks from the 2022-23 River Murray flood will also form a major focus of the study.

As part of the study, researchers will gather data through a series of workshops, literature reviews and on-ground field investigations comprising ecological assessments, cultural assessments, and groundwater and surface water monitoring.

DEW is coordinating the study as part of a wider monitoring program, investigating the environmental impacts of the 2022-23 River Murray flood on critical Murray-Darling Basin ecosystems, including the Coorong and Lower Lakes region.

The Healthy Coorong, Healthy Basin program is jointly funded by the Australian Government and Government of South Australia.