WATER MANAGEMENT IN AUSTRALIA: SHARING EXPERIENCE
Posted on 24.06.2019
Part 2. What can be learnt for the Dniester project
We continue our journey around Australian waters. In the previous part of the article one has found out about the vital part of the Murray-Darling basin which is north east from Melbourne – Goulburn and Broken rivers, the way they managed and preserved.
This time, let yourself dive into such issues as river management, climate change and Whole Farm Planning.
MANAGEMENT STRATEGY – WHO DOES AND WHAT
Goulburn-Broken Catchment Management Authority was established in 1997 in Shepparton, two hours drive from Melbourne. Its CEO, Mr Chris Norman, ultimately reports to the Board of Directors appointed by Victoria’s Minister for Water.
The sixty team members contribute to four programme directions:
- Sustainable Irrigation,
- River Health,
- Land & Biodiversity.
The gorgeous team succeeded in applying 24 individual river system models linked together to describe the surface water resources of the basin.
Photo: ©GBCMA. From left to right: Radu Kazaku, Chris Norman, Irina Ovcharenko, Mark Terner, Tamara Kutonova.
BASIN MANAGEMENT PLAN
As you remember from the previous article, a structure of the basin management plan is suggested by Australia’s National Ministry for Water. One of its components is Goulburn Broken Catchment Strategy providing wider vision on water ways, invasive species, biodiversity, floodplain management, land health, and climate change adaptation
It was developed for the period of 2013-2019 with a particular attitude toward salinity, that happened to appear in 1980 leaving an aftertaste of its hazard potential. Though, with some time passed, it became clear that it had been rainfall driven rather than provoked by irritation. It has led to introduction of an integrated catchment management in 1990-ies. In early 2000 a value of ecosystem services was also acknowledged. Currently the resilience-based approach lies at the core of the management efforts.
Today’s Goulburn – Broken management team could share a few useful practices, that can be applied for the other river basins as well:
- dividing a catchment into geomorphological segments (e.g. there are 5 of them in the Goulburn River used for flow planning but there are 16 used to asses condition in the “Index of Stream Condition” including 2 unregulated reaches above Lake Eildon),
- an index of stream condition (ISC) is identified for each segment. ISC includes such parameters as hydromophological state, macroinvertabrates, bank plants… There are 5 categories of the ISC, i.e. very poor, poor, satisfactory, good and excellent,
- prioritization of issues is done in a so called AVIRA system which is a spreadsheet with grades per numerous parameters in the 3 groups of systems: ecological, economic and social,
- drawing a plan of measures,
- implementation of the measures with periodic monitoring and evaluation. Adaptive management is applied during the implementation of the measures.
Picture: ©GBCMA. 16 segments (reaches) along the Goulburn River and its tributaries (16+), also demonstrates the condition against natural.
Sources of financing of the measures are primarily through the State based Environmental Contribution.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND FLOODS
Climate change is a big issue in Australia. A so called Millenium Drought in 1997 – 2010 (the worst since European settlement 231 years ago) caused serious concerns in the Australian society and resulted in significant revision of inter alia of the irrigation schemes (2/3 of small farms had to shut down, efficiency of irrigation was addressed) and introduction of the environmental flows, i.e. water for plants, birds, fish etc. Specifically this included the 2007 Federal Water Act and the 2012 Murray Darling Basin Plan
Floods periodically happen in the GBC, they are mostly managed via various dams, levees and weirs. Floodplain Management Strategy was developed in 2018–2028 with a focus on community safety. More information is at https://www.gbcma.vic.gov.au/floodplain-planning/floodplain-management. There are efforts underway to look at artificial watering of floodplains in the GB region and more broadly in the MD Basin via the Constraints Management Strategy.
In Australia they pay a lot of attention to ecosystems restoration. This includes but not limited to:
- Revegetation (forest belts of trees / bushes / grass, preservation of alone-standing trees) – e.g. 500,000 trees were planted in the Glenelg river. A very useful guide on the revegetation is here https://www.gbcma.vic.gov.au/land_and_biodiversity/resources_publications/revegetation_guide_for_the_gbc,
- Water for environment,
- Work with farmers to install fences along rivers banks not to let livestock there,
- Leaving fallen trees in rivers for fish breeding,
- Managing invasive species (carp are naughty there and they are not delicious at all so carp screens are installed, salvinia and water hyacynth),
- сreating concrete or stone fish passages (two photos below, credit – Iryna Ovcharenko), fish elevators – at dams.
Photo: ©Iryna Ovcharenko. Concrete or stone fish passages.
The Victorian Government has invested a record $222 million over 4 years to improve the health of waterways and catchments ($22 million for GBCMA).
Australian water authorities have developed social engagement and communication strategies that were kindly shared with the Dniester team. For Mark Turner, a Manager of Rivers and Wetlands Health Programme, it turned to be a simple matter to arrange a meeting with a local vineyard manager who shared his experience in irrigation, nutrient loads in the rivers, smart agriculture and organic farming, and the way he interacts with water authorities to settle various related issues.
Another field visit was to the vineyard owned by a Yorta Yorta native tribe representative, and we saw how state officials dealing with indigenous knowledge and involvement.
Photo: ©GBCMA From left to right: Tamara Kutonova, Radu Kazaku.
To support a regular dialogue, catchment management authority keeps working with professional business and amateurs via consultancy, scientific support and specialized facilitation. It is involved into so called Whole Farm Planning that provides promotion and complex advisory on strategic development of farms in terms of both business profit and wildlife management.
Citizen science is promoted as well. We managed to meet ichthyologists who were electrofishing at the Goulburn to register species, their size and weight as well as to sample for genetic analysis.
Professional facilitation is used for some of the events in the basin. It is mandatory for banks and other creditors to offer mediation to farmers before commencing debt recovery proceedings on farm mortgages.
If you are eager to get more details on any specific issue related to water management in Australia, please feel free to contact Mrs Tamara Kutonova via an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
Author – Tamara Kutonova,
Regional coordinator of the GEF-funded Dniester project,
and Mark Turner,
Head of Rivers Health Programme in the GBCMA.