Monitoring sites established during the LTIM project that focus on the upper and mid reaches of the Wakool-Yallakool system (zones 1, 2, 3 and 4) will be maintained for the MER project.
For the MER project there will be a total of 17 water quality monitoring sites throughout the whole system, including ongoing sites in Yallakool Creek, Wakool River zones 2 to 4, and source water sites in the Mulwala Canal and the Edward River at Stephens Weir. New sites expand the water quality monitoring to further downstream in the Wakool River as well as in Tuppal Creek, the Edward River and the Colligen-Niemur system to enable an evaluation of environmental water across the broader system. Additional monitoring sites will be established in the Edward River downstream of Stevens Weir to inform the adaptive management of environmental water in the Edward River. This river system was not monitored as part of LTIM.
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.
The diagram below illustrates the 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 included in the Edward-Wakool MER Plan are shown in brackets in boxes shaded blue.
A summary of the monitoring and evaluation activities for this MER Plan is shown below and provides a summary of the changes or additions relative to the Edward-Wakool LTIM project (2014- 2019). One of the main changes is that carbon and water quality monitoring has been extended so that evaluation can be undertaken across the entire Edward-Wakool system.
Monitoring of river hydrology will be used to describe the flow regime of rivers in the Edward-Wakool system and evaluate the contribution of Commonwealth environmental water to the flows in this system.
Discharge data will be sourced from water NSW website, Murray Irrigation Limited, depth loggers, and staff gauges.
1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 11, 12
Hydraulic modelling that was undertaken in zones 1,2,3,4 and 8 as part of the LTIM project will continue to be used as part of MER evaluations, but no new hydraulic modelling will be undertaken in these zones. Reaches in zones 11 and 12 will modelled as part of the integrated Edward River research project.
4, 8, 11, 12
Evaluation will be undertaken in 2019-20 using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to assess riverbank condition and link with the evaluation of vegetation cover in response to flow.
Carbon and water quality
The type and source of carbon will be monitored monthly. There is an option for additional sampling (weekly) during blackwater and other poor water quality events.
1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 11, 12
The effect of flows and lateral connectivity on river productivity will be assessed comparing sites upstream and downstream of Werai Forest in the Edward River.
Riverbank and aquatic vegetation
1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 11, 12
Research on vegetation will be undertaken on riverbanks and in low lying parts of Werai Forest in collaboration with Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre.
Research on turtle populations in the Edward River and adjacent wetlands is planned for 2019-21 to assess how connectivity of wetlands, affects turtle distribution, movement, and body condition.
Golden perch movement will be monitored from June-Sept 2019 to evaluate the 2019 winter environmental watering action. No fish movement will be monitored as part of the MER project after September 2019.
Research on perch spawning will be undertaken in the Edward River downstream of Stevens Weir in 2019-20 in collaboration with the Edward-Wakool Angler Association.
The abundance and diversity of larval fish will be monitored fortnightly between September and March using light traps and drift nets.
(Young of year)
1, 2, 3, 4
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 community survey
This monitoring and evaluation will be undertaken in 2022 only (year 3 of the MER project).
A biodiversity assessment will be undertaken 2019-20 to assess the presence of a range of rare and threatened taxa, including fish, frogs, mammals and crayfish.
Social science research is planned for 2020-21 to examine stakeholder attitudes to, and acceptance of, the concept and use of Commonwealth environmental water. This follows on from a project undertaken to assessment stakeholder responses to flow trials in the Edward-Wakool system in 2017 and 2018