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The Living Murray celebrates 20 years at Chowilla Floodplain

The Living Murray has cemented its place as one of Australia’s most significant river restoration programs but even after 20 years, it shows no signs of slowing down.

The Living Murray celebrates 20 years at Chowilla Floodplain
Chowilla Floodplain

Chowilla Floodplain is one of 6 The Living Murray (TLM) icon sites and forms part of the Riverland Ramsar wetland of international importance. On Wednesday 10 April 2024, TLM celebrated 20 years of restoring the health of this significant wetland by showcasing work from some of South Australia’s top scientists at a night of ‘Science in the pub’.

Approximately 100 community members, Traditional Owners, scientists, Department for Environment and Water (DEW) staff and researchers all converged at the Renmark Hotel to hear about TLM research and findings, including long-term data trends for long-lived vegetation and tree condition, understory vegetation, fish, waterbirds and bush birds.

The Living Murray celebrates 20 years at Chowilla Floodplain
Event MC Tony Sharley at the event.

The River Murray and Mallee Aboriginal Corporation (RMMAC) started the night with a wonderful Welcome to Country, and RMAAC Project Officer Fiona Giles spoke about how the Chowilla Floodplain Indigenous Partnerships program supports ecological monitoring and the sharing of knowledge about the floodplain’s cultural value and significance.

Ms Giles also discussed the close collaboration between the RMMAC Ranger Team and Department for Environment and Water staff in undertaking Aboriginal Waterways Assessments and annual scar tree health monitoring.

Presentations and discussion panels highlighted the importance of delivering water for the environment to the floodplain, using monitoring data to demonstrate the benefits provided to a large range of floodplain flora and fauna. Benefits included providing refuge, foraging and breeding grounds for waterbirds, frogs and other wildlife, as well as assisting to maintain the condition of trees and lignum, particularly during dry periods.

Presentations also spoke about the critical importance of Chowilla’s flowing habitats for native fish species such as the Murray cod and showed how TLM’s work at Chowilla has contributed to the broader understanding of floodplain ecology.

The long-term contributions and importance of Chowilla was stressed by members of the Chowilla Community Reference Committee, with Tony Sharley using his role as MC to discuss his love of Chowilla, and Kevin Smith providing a heartfelt presentation on the history of floodplain and the important role community advocacy has played in decision-making and environmental actions undertaken at the site.

Speaking at the end of the event, DEW's Manager, Environmental Water, Tony Herbert discussed how the program was an important precursor to the Basin Plan, laying a strong foundation for the restoration of the Basin’s wetlands, floodplains and rivers. He commended TLM’s contribution to the improvement of the icon site’s health and noted how the program’s robust ecological monitoring continues to inform water planning and delivery decisions.

The Living Murray Chowilla Team would like to thank the River Murray and Mallee Aboriginal Corporation, Murray-Darling Basin Authority, University of Adelaide, South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), National Parks and Wildlife Service SA, SA Water, Chowilla Community Reference Committee, MC Tony Sharley and everyone who helped make the program and the event a success.

Visit the event photo gallery here.

For more information, visit The Living Murray page.

Watch the event presentations

The Living Murray is a joint initiative of the Australian Government and the governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The program is coordinated by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority.

The Living Murray celebrates 20 years at Chowilla Floodplain
Tour through River Murray Lock 6 for the 20-year celebration of The Living Murray at Chowilla icon site.
The Living Murray celebrates 20 years at Chowilla Floodplain
Watch the 'Celebrating 20 years of The Living Murray' MDBA video.
The Living Murray celebrates 20 years at Chowilla Floodplain
Celebrating 20 years of The Living Murray at Chowilla event photo gallery