ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Edward-Wakool LTIM Project

Project led by Professor Robyn Watts
ILWS
Charles Sturt University
PO Box 789, Albury, NSW, 2640

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Background

About the Long-Term Intervention Monitoring Project (LTIM Project)

Wakool RiverThe Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) is responsible under the Water Act 2007 (Cth) for managing Commonwealth environmental water holdings. The holdings must be managed to protect or restore the environmental assets of the Murray-Darling Basin.

The Long-Term Intervention Monitoring Project (LTIM Project) is the primary means by which the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) will undertake monitoring and evaluation of the ecological outcomes of Commonwealth environmental watering. 

'Wakool River at Carmarthen Reserve, Sept 2010. Photo R Watts' 

The LTIM Project will be implemented at seven Selected Areas over a five year period from 2014-15 to 2018-19 to deliver five high-level outcomes:

  1. Evaluate the contribution of Commonwealth environmental watering to the objectives of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority's (MDBA) Environmental Watering Plan
  2. Evaluate the ecological outcomes of Commonwealth environmental watering at each of the seven Selected Areas
  3. Infer ecological outcomes of Commonwealth environmental watering in areas of the Murray-Darling Basin not monitored
  4. Support the adaptive management of Commonwealth environmental water
  5. Monitor the ecological response to Commonwealth environmental watering at each of the seven Selected Areas.

The Long Term Intervention Monitoring (LTIM) Project for the Edward-Wakool river system.

The Long Term Intervention Monitoring (LTIM) Project for the Edward-Wakool river system Selected Area is funded by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office. The project is being delivered by a consortium of service providers led by Charles Sturt University (Institute for Land, Water and Society) and includes, NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries), Monash University (Water Studies Centre), Griffith University, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, and Murray Local Land Services. Monitoring and evaluation of the ecological outcomes of Commonwealth environmental watering in the Edward-Wakool Selected Area will be undertaken from 2014 to 2019.

The LTIM project is based on a clear and robust program logic, as detailed in the Long-Term Intervention Monitoring Project Logic and Rationale Document. That document sets out the scientific and technical foundations of long-term intervention monitoring and is being applied to areas where LTIM projects are being undertaken. It also provides links between Basin Plan objectives and targets to the monitoring of outcomes from Commonwealth environmental watering actions. For more information, see Monitoring and evaluation for the use of Commonwealth environmental water.

The  Edward-Wakool System

The Edward-Wakool system is a large anabranch system of the Murray River main channel. It is a complex network of interconnected streams, ephemeral creeks, flood runners and wetlands.

The Edward-Wakool system is considered to be important for its high native species richness and diversity including threatened and endangered fish, frogs, mammals, and riparian plants. It is listed as an endangered ecosystem, as part of the 'aquatic ecological community in the natural drainage system of the lower Murray River catchment' in New South Wales (NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994). This system has abundant areas of fish habitat, and historically had diverse fish communities which supported both commercial and recreational fisheries.

The area supports a productive agricultural community, has a rich and diverse Indigenous history, and supports both active and passive recreational uses such as fishing, bird-watching and bush-walking. Many Aboriginal nations maintain strong connections to the country (including the Yorta Yorta, Wiradjuri, Barapa Barapa, Wemba Wemba and Wari Wari), with the Werai Forest in the process of conversion to an Indigenous Protected Area.

The location of the Edward-Wakool system is shown in the map below

Edward-Wakool Map

Edward-Wakool LTIM Project Team

The Long Term Intervention Monitoring Project for the Edward-Wakool river system Selected Area is funded by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office. The project is being delivered by a consortium of service providers led by Charles Sturt University (Institute for Land, Water and Society) and includes, NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries), Monash University (Water Studies Centre), Griffith University (Australian Rivers Institute),  NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, and Murray Local Land Services.

 

Team membersRoleResponsibilityOrganisation
Professor Robyn Watts Project Leader
CSU Team Leader
Coordinate project reporting Stakeholder engagement Riverbank and aquatic vegetation
Hydraulic modelling
Hydrology
CSU
Dr Nicole McCasker CSU team member
Assistant Project Leader 
Fish reproduction (larvae) Coordinate laboratory work
Data analysis Data Management
CSU
Dr Julia HowittCSU team memberWater quality and carbonCSU
Technical Officer (vacant position)CSU team memberField work for fish larvae, community and movement. Purchase and maintenance of equipment, lab workCSU
Ms Nikki ScottCSU team memberProject administrationCSU
Dr Jason ThiemDPI Team leaderFish community and fish movementNSW DPI (Fisheries)
Mr Rohan RehwinkelDPI team memberField work for fish community and fish movementNSW DPI (Fisheries)
Mr Chris SmithDPI team memberField work for fish larvae, community and movementNSW DPI (Fisheries)
A/Prof Mike GraceMonash Team LeaderStream metabolismMonash University
Ms Tina HinesMonash team memberWater sample analysisMonash University
Ms Sascha HealyOEH Team LeaderRiverbank and aquatic vegetationNSW OEH
Professor Nick BondLa Trobe Team leaderPredictive response modelling, hydrologyLa Trobe University

LTIM monitoring and evaluation in the Edward-Wakool system

The LTIM Project in the Edward-Wakool system will focus on monitoring ecosystem responses to instream flows. The monitoring will be focussed in Yallakool Creek and the upper and mid reaches of the Wakool River. In addition to the fish surveys undertaken in the focal area, a further 15 sites throughout the Edward-Wakool system will be surveyed for fish populations in years 1 and 5. In addition to water quality sampling in the focal area, water quality will also be sampled in Stevens Weir (source 1) and the Mulwala canal (source 2) as these sites are the potential source of Commonwealth environmental water in this system.

Edward-wakool 

The responses to Commonwealth environmental watering will be evaluated using an ecosystem approach. A conceptual diagram illustrating three main flow types (low flows, freshes, overbank flows) and their influence on ecosystem components and processes that, in turn, influence fish population dynamics. Indicators that will be monitored as part of the Edward-Wakool Selected Area LTIM Project plan are shown in brackets in boxes shaded blue.

conceptual diagram  

The monitoring and evaluation has a strong focus on fish, including fish movement, reproduction, recruitment and adult populations. Several other indicators (e.g. water quality, hydraulic modelling, primary productivity, aquatic vegetation) will also be monitored as they indirectly influence fish population dynamics and will also be used to evaluate the whole of ecosystem responses to Commonwealth environmental watering.

Indicator

Zones

Notes

River hydrology

1,2,3,4

Discharge data from NSW Office of Water website, depth loggers, staff gauges

Hydraulic modelling

1,2,3,4

The extent of within channel inundation of geomorphic features under different discharge will be modelled. Ground truthing will be undertaken by surveying selected sites

Stream metabolism and instream primary productivity

1,2,3,4

Dissolved oxygen and light will be logged continuously in each focal zone between August and March. Nutrients and carbon samples will be collected monthly, spot water quality monitored fortnightly.

Characterisation of carbon during blackwater and poor water quality events

1,2,3,4

The type and source of carbon will be monitored monthly. There is an option for CEWO to fund additional sampling (weekly) during blackwater and other poor water quality events

Riverbank and aquatic vegetation

1,2,3,4

The composition and percent cover of riverbank and aquatic vegetation will be monitored monthly between September and March in each water year.

Fish reproduction

(larvae)

1,2,3,4

The abundance and diversity of larval fish will be monitored fortnightly between September and March using light traps and drift nets.

Fish recruitment

(young of year)

1,2,3.4

Targeted capture of young fish (1+ and 2+ year old fish) will be undertaken by back-pack electrofishing between February and April. Young of year recruitment will be assessed using otoliths.

Fish population survey

1,2,3,4 (plus 15 sites in years 1 and 5)

Fish population surveys will be undertaken annually in the focal area. An additional 15 sites throughout the system will be surveyed in years 1 and 5 to report on long-term change in the fish community

Fish movement

1,2,3,4

To be undertaken starting in 2015 with a focus on golden perch and silver perch

Reports

Edward-Wakool Environmental Water Reference Group - Mid Murray

The Edward-Wakool Environmental Water Reference Group was formed in early 2016 to ensure a local voice in the use of environmental flows in the Edward-Wakool river systems. The group is supported by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office.

How does the Edward-Wakool Environmental Water Reference Group work?

The Reference Group was established to help to develop and guide environmental watering in the Edward-Wakool region. For example, during the 2016 floods the Reference Group developed a careful approach to delivering environmental water into the local river systems, following recent natural floods.

In the future, the Reference Group will be consulted in development of the annual watering plans for the Edward-Wakool. The Reference Group will be a strong link between government and community. 

Information on this page is sourced from https://www.environment.gov.au/water/cewo/catchment/mid-murray/edward-wakool-ewrg

Engagement

2017

Water ecosystems health

The CSU research office has created a new website that showcases research and innovation at CSU.research impact 

Innovate 

One of the case studies is on 'Water ecosystem health' http://innovate.csu.edu.au/impact/sustainable-water-systems  It showcases CSU involvement in the monitoring of Commonwealth environmental water. In the accompanying video, there are short interviews with Hilton Taylor (CEWO) and Roseanne Farrant (Edward-Wakool Environmental Water Reference Group member) and as well as Skye Wassens and Robyn Watts. 

Research impact is a 2 page information sheet. 

Edward-Wakool Fish Forum

Three members of the Edward-Wakool LTIM team gave presentations at the annual Edward-Wakool Fish Forum held at the Barham and District Services Club, Barham on the evening of February 16. Around 80 people attended the forum.The forum is a collaboration of Murray Local Land Services, NSW Department of Primary Industries Fisheries, Charles Sturt University and the National Landcare Program. Topics were:

  • From Green to Black, an overview of water quality issues in 2016 including blue-green algae monitoring and the recent flooding and hypoxic blackwater - Dr Julia Howitt
  • Long term monitoring of fish populations in the Edward-Wakool River System - Dr Nicole McCasker
  • Fish movement in the Edward-Wakool System - Institute Adjunct and scientist with Fisheries NSW Dr Jason Thiem

 

2015

LTIM Launch Robyn WattsThe official launch of the Institute's two major environmental water monitoring projects funded by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) was held on Wednesday, February 18 at the Albury-Wodonga campus.

A/Prof Robyn WattsAfter a Welcome to Country by Yalmambirra, presentations were made by CSU's Vice Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann, Mr Ben Docker, from CEWO, and the leaders of the two five year projects -  Professor Robyn Watts, for the Long-Term Intervention Monitoring Project in the Edward-Wakool River System, and Dr Skye Wassens, for the Long Term Intervention Monitoring Project in the Murrumbidgee River System.

Professor Vann said the projects "ticked all the boxes" in terms of what research he would like the University to be delivering.

"These projects in particular are great examples of projects that are collaborative across universities, with government, with industry and with communities...they're absolutely focussed on real, practical and tangible outcomes for the environment and the community and are great from every perspective. They're 'poster children' of where I'd like research at CSU to be at."

Edward-Wakool TeamForty-four people including research team members, the Executive Dean of CSUs Faculty of Science, Professor Tim Wess, ILWS members and representatives from partner agencies including Dr Bob Creese, Director of Fisheries Research, NSW Department of Primary Industries and  Mr Gary Rodda, General Manager of  Murray Local Land Services, attended the launch.  (Pic : Members of the Edward-Wakool project team who were at the launch — at CSU - Albury/Wodonga campus.)

Featured Stories

Answers to some questions about the 2016 hypoxic blackwater event in the southern Murray-Darling Basin (December 20, 2016) 

Researchers Professor Robyn Watts and Dr Julia Howitt, members of a team that have been studying the Edward-Wakool River System since 2010, look at what has caused the hypoxic blackwater; what is happening now; why it has so extensive and severe; why it was particularly bad in the Edward-Wakool River system; what is being done to minimise fish deaths; whether there are any good outcomes from the floods and blackwater;  and whether we can we prevent hypoxic blackwater events happening in the future. To download the document click here.

Media 

The Reference Group Newspaper Columns in Deniliquin Pastoral Times and Southern Riverina News

26/5/2017 Managing local water to benefit native fish and water plants pdf

6/12/2016 Fish refuges created with local community input pdf

21/11/2016 Locals taking action in environmental water management pdf

CSU media release on research to mitigate blackwater impact (1/11/2016)

http://news.csu.edu.au/latest-news/science/research-to-mitigate-blackwater-impact

Common Wealth Environmental Water Office Media Release (24/10/2016)

Environmental water to provide refuge flows in the Edward river to minimise fish deaths caused by hypoxic blackwater.

https://www.environment.gov.au/water/cewo/media-release/environmental-water-edward-river

The Parliamentary Secretary Senator Birmingham announcement of the CEWO Long Term Intervention Monitoring Project (LTIM) (12/11/14)

http://www.environment.gov.au/minister/birmingham/2014/mr20141112.html

CSU media release announcing the LTIM projects (20/11/14)

http://news.csu.edu.au/latest-news/environmental-sciences/csu-welcomes-$6.9m-water-monitoring-projects#.VG0172M-CGY

Interview with Laurissa Smith from ABC rural report (21/11/14)  MP3

Laurissa Smith: "Every year thousands of megalitres of water is sent down our major rivers to repair the ecosystem. But how effective are those environmental flows and do they need to happen more or less often?

That's where researchers are stepping in - over the next 5 years they'll be tracking changes across the Murray-Darling Basin. Associate Professor, Robyn Watts is leading one of two Commonwealth-funded projects in the Riverina."  Link to mp3