Caring for Katarapko
Katarapko is located near Berri and Loxton and covers more than 9,000 hectares. Most of this is in the Murray River National Park, with the rest being a mix of private land, Crown land and the Gerard Aboriginal Reserve.
It is a special place because of its cultural, ecological and recreational value. It is home to threatened species and includes a range of habitats, with lagoons, swamps, wetlands and creeks. The area also attracts up to 40,000 visitors each year.
The ecological condition of Katarapko has been declining because of altered flow regimes, obstructions to fish passage, and pest plants and animals.
Environmental floodplain watering at Katarapko Spring 2020
How we are caring for Katarapko
Community and government agencies are working together to look after Katarapko. Work began with the Katfish Reach community project as part of the Native Fish Strategy of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. This project set up a large-scale demonstration site to show the community that coordinated activities can help native fish habitat and populations to recover. The name ‘Katfish Reach’ was coined from the words Katarapko and fish demonstration reach.
Improving the health of Katarapko means managing flows into and around it in a more natural water regime. Water flows into the Katarapko-Eckerts Creek system from the River Murray above Lock 4. The creeks then flow through the floodplain, bypassing Lock 4, and eventually flow back out to the River Murray in weir pool 4. Infrastructure has been improved to enable better management of these flows. Works included removing barriers and constructing fishways so fish downstream of Lock 4 can migrate upstream through Katarapko. These works formed part of the Riverine Recovery Project (RRP) and the SA Riverland Floodplains Integrated Infrastructure Program (SARFIIP), that were delivered by the Department for Environment and Water.
Our aim for Katarapko
How we are protecting Katarapko:
- managing water to create a more natural cycle of flooding and drying
- increasing native fish numbers
- improving the ability of native fish to move through Katarapko
- improving the diversity of native plants
- improving habitat for native animals including threatened species
- recognising the importance of traditional Aboriginal culture and European heritage
- making the best use of environmental water
- improving water quality
- managing pest plants and animals.
What has been done?
On-ground completed works include:
- Construction of major regulators, that are used to control the delivery of environmental water, at the Splash, Sawmill Creek, Piggy Creek and Carpark Lagoons
- Construction of new regulators with fishways within the Katarapko-Eckerts Creek system to support fish movement
- Construction of smaller structures to help hold the water on the floodplain
- Upgraded infrastructure to manage the habitat of the Murray hardyhead listed nationally and internationally as an endangered species
- Removal of barriers to improve native fish passage and flow of water
These works have improved:
- Native fish passage and flows through 38 kilometres of waterways
- Water quality and connectivity with the river channel
- Environmental flow to the Katarapko Island Drainage Basin.
The improved infrastructure is being operated to manage water flows to the Katarapko Floodplain. An extensive ecological monitoring program will track the condition of the floodplain, vegetation, plants and animals. This information will provide data to inform decisions about floodplain watering events and track the improvements over time.
Floodplain watering at Katarapko Spring 2020
What are the expected benefits?
- Improve connectivity between riverine and floodplain habitats
- Localised freshening of groundwater systems
- Watering of native vegetation including red gums, black box and lignum
- Improve soil conditions as floodplain watering events flush out salt
- Increase sustainability of the tree population by being able to support seedlings with more frequent watering
- Increase food resources, such as waterbugs and aquatic plants, for animals such as fish, yabbies and waterbirds
- Increase food resources and habitat for native terrestrial animals such as bush birds, reptiles and bats, through improving the condition of the floodplain woodlands.
What to expect during an operation?
Floodplain watering effects vary depending on the level of operation:
- Low: raised water levels in anabranches and creeks
- Medium: water flows out into low-lying wetlands and floodplains
- High: large-scale watering of wetlands and floodplains.
Natural flooding delivers more widespread watering.