Project led by Professor Robyn Watts
Charles Sturt University
PO Box 789, Albury, NSW, 2640
The 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:
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 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
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.
|Professor Robyn Watts||Project Leader|
CSU Team Leader
|Coordinate project reporting Stakeholder engagement Riverbank and aquatic vegetation |
|Dr Nicole McCasker||CSU team member|
Assistant Project Leader
|Fish reproduction (larvae) Coordinate laboratory work |
Data analysis Data Management
|Dr Julia Howitt||CSU team member||Water quality and carbon||CSU|
|Mr John Trethewie||Technical Officer|
CSU team member
|Field work for fish larvae, community and movement. Purchase and maintenance of equipment, lab work||CSU|
|Ms Nikki Scott||CSU team member||Project administration||CSU|
|Dr Jason Thiem||DPI Team leader||Fish community and fish movement||NSW DPI (Fisheries)|
|Mr Rohan Rehwinkel||DPI team member||Field work for fish community and fish movement||NSW DPI (Fisheries)|
|Mr Chris Smith||DPI team member||Field work for fish larvae, community and movement||NSW DPI (Fisheries)|
|A/Prof Mike Grace||Monash Team Leader||Stream metabolism||Monash University|
|Ms Tina Hines||Monash team member||Water sample analysis||Monash University|
|Ms Sascha Healy||OEH Team Leader||Riverbank and aquatic vegetation||NSW OEH|
|Professor Nick Bond||La Trobe Team leader||Predictive response modelling, hydrology||La Trobe University|
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.
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.
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.
Discharge data from NSW Office of Water website, depth loggers, staff gauges
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
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
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
The composition and percent cover of riverbank and aquatic vegetation will be monitored monthly between September and March in each water year.
The abundance and diversity of larval fish will be monitored fortnightly between September and March using light traps and drift nets.
(young of year)
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
To be undertaken starting in 2015 with a focus on golden perch and silver perch
Algal Monitoring March to May 2016
Edward-Wakool LTIM Progress Report 9
Edward-Wakool LTIM Progress Report 8
'Yallakool Creek, Sept 2010. Photo R Watts'
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.
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
The Reference Group Newspaper Columns in Deniliquin Pastoral Times and Southern Riverina News
Vegetation Monitoring in the Colligen Creek System. Watts, R. & Healy, S. (OEH) (2015-2018) Murray Local Land Services, $70,000 Project details
Blue-green algal monitoring in the Edward-Wakool River System. Watts, R., Howitt, J. & McCasker, N. (2016) CEWO, $106,476 (Contract variation for the LTIM project) Project details
Study on using irrigation infrastructure to deliver environmental water to create refuges during hypoxic events. Watts, R., Howitt, J. (2016) CEWO $42,000 (Contract variation for the LTIM project) Project details
The CSU research office has created a new website that showcases research and innovation at CSU.
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.
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:
The 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.
After 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."
Forty-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.)
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.
CSU Media Release 30/5/2018
River blackfish found during fish monitoring in Yallakool Creek, southern NSW
Researchers from Charles Sturt University (CSU) and NSW Fisheries have detected river blackfish (Gadopsis marmoratus) in Yallakool Creek in the Edward-Wakool river system for the first time since the monitoring of environmental flows commenced in 2010. Read more
The Conversation (1/5/2018)
It will take decades, but the Murray Darling Basin Plan is delivering environmental improvements. A great article in The Conversation: Amid the politics, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was originally designed primarily to restore the rivers’ environment. While questions have been raised over the plan’s governance, economics, and political commitment by the states, it is important to note that, more than five years after the plan’s adoption, the environmental benefits are slowly but surely being seen. https://theconversation.com/it-will-take-decades-but-the-murray-darling-basin-plan-is-delivering-environmental-improvements-93568
Commonwealth Environmental Water Office Media Release (24/4/2018)
Catfish on the Prowl : Recreational anglers and researchers alike have been excited over the discovery of eel tailed catfish (Tandanus tandanus) larvae in the mid-Wakool River, downstream of the Moulamein Road bridge in New South Wales. Read more: http://www.environment.gov.au/water/cewo/media-release/catfish-on-the-prowl
Western Murray Land Improvement Group (2017) Edward-Wakool aerators: A Community Initiated Response to Fish Deaths
The Reference Group Newspaper Columns in Deniliquin Pastoral Times and Southern Riverina News
CSU media release on research to mitigate blackwater impact (1/11/2016)
CommonWealth 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.
The Parliamentary Secretary Senator Birmingham announcement of the CEWO Long Term Intervention Monitoring Project (LTIM) (12/11/14)
CSU media release announcing the LTIM projects (20/11/14)
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
Image 1: Algae very evident at the Upper Wakool River at zone 2 'Widgee' 8/3/16 (Photo R. Watts)
Image 2: Water moving through Yallakool regulator 8/3/16 (Photo: R Watts)
Image 3: Stevens Weir 8/3/16 (Photo R. Watts)
Image 4: Red scum forming in slower flowing sections of the Wakool River zone 2 at 'Widgee' 14/3/16 (Photos: R. Watts)
Image 5: Iridescent blue algal scum forming in irrigation channel after water was turned off and water was standing for one day (Photo: John Lolicato)
Image 6: Blue green algae evident at Gee Gee bridge 21/3/16 (Photo J. Abell)
Image 7: Blue green algae scum was evident among aquatic mid Wakool River zone 3 on 22/3/16 (Photo J. Abell)
Report on Blackwater event in the Murray 2016
Image 1: Banks of Barber's Creek (Koondrook Forest) showing accumulated leaf litter and bark prior to flooding (Photo: James Abell).
Image 2: Collecting water quality samples from Thule Creek which runs through the Koondrook Forest. The dark water colour indicates high dissolved organic carbon (around 25 mg/L on this date) and the dissolved oxygen was low (1.9 mg/L). (Photo: Nicole McCasker 14/11/2016)
Image 3: Water from an irrigation escape (cloudy, containing high dissolved oxygen and low dissolved carbon) mixing with water from the Wakool River (dark brown, containing low dissolved oxygen and high dissolved carbon) to create a local fish refuge (Photo: Robyn Watts 9/11/2016)
Image 4: Small aeration system deployed in the Edward River upstream of Moulamein to create a local fish refuge (Photo: Roger Knight 1/11/2016)
' Clockwise from left: An acoustic receiver ready for deployment and an acoustic tag for scale, downloading information from tagged fish passing an acoustic receiver and an anaesthetised golden perch undergoing surgical implantation of an acoustic tag
Image 2: Backpack electrofishing for fish recruits in the Wakool River (Photo: J. Abell)
Image 3:: River black fish (metalarvae) collected from the Wakool River zone 2 (Photo: N. McCasker)
Image 4: Juvenile obscure galaxias (Galaxias oliros) collected from the Wakool River (Photo: N. McCasker)
Image 1: Aquatic vegetation in the Wakool River zone 3 (Photo: S. Healy)
Image 2: Aquatic vegetation at Wakool River zone 4 site 2, Nov 2015 (Photo: S Healy)
Image 3: Milfoil and floating pondweed in flower. (Photo: S Healy)
Image 4: Charophytes were abundant in Yallakool Creek and the Wakool River zones 3 and 4. (Photo: S. Healy)
Image 5: Swamp lily (dark green leaves in centre of photo) observed in the Wakool River zone 3. (Photo: S. Healy)