NEMP and EWA Programs: Flow and Water Quality Richard Davis Program Coordinator
Blue Green Algal Crisis • 1991 Darling River bloom • NSW state of emergency • Estimated $2.4 million loss of tourist revenue and $2 million on alternative water supplies • Other blooms • 800km of the River Murray Hume Dam -Euston in 1983 • Various reservoirs • Swan River, WA • Estuaries and coastal lakes • Moreton bay • Annual cost between $180-240 million (Atech)
Management Responses • Emergency committees • MDBC Task Force • NSW Blue-Green Algal Task Force • Victoria BG Algal Project Team • Focus on • Identification and Protection • Prevention - nutrient reduction, especially phosphorus • Science reviews by LWRRDC and MDBC • In-principle understanding based largely on northern hemisphere • Local processes not well known • Flow and turbidity appear correlated but causes not understood
National Eutrophication Management Program 1995-2000 • LRDDC and MDBC • Scope • Catchments • In-stream • Reservoirs • Estuaries • Objectives • Understand processes leading to the initiation and development of algal blooms • Help prevent and manage impacts of eutrophication • Communicate research findings to relevant stakeholders.
NEMP Structure • Management Committee • Manager: Nick Schofield • Focus catchments • Wilsons Inlet • Upper Namoi • Fitzroy (Qld) • Goulburn-Broken • 39 projects $2m from funders ($4m total)
Eutrophication Issues • Sources and bioavailability of phosphorus • Role of nitrogen (N) and micro-nutrients • Role of stratification and flow, and light • Role of sediments • Estuaries, reservoirs and rivers
NEMP Achievements • New knowledge (including non-NEMP research) • Nitrogen is equally important to phosphorus in controlling algal growth in the Murray–Darling Basin, and possibly elsewhere. • Light, not nutrients, is commonly the controlling factor in inland rivers • Bioavailable fraction of phosphorus is roughly equal from dryland, irrigation and sewage-treatment plant sources • Phosphorus can travel through subsoil pathways, bypassing surface interception measures • Review article illustrated how Australian eutrophication differs, within a universal framework Eutrophication in Australian Rivers... Hydrobiologia 2006 559:23-76
Management Outcomes • Major management implications from findings • Some management methods • Reservoir bio-manipulation • Rapid bio-available phosphorus assay • Sediment control in sub-tropical rivers • Focus catchments benefitted – especially Wilson’s Inlet • Results not always easily transferable without local studies
Communication and Uptake Basin Plan will be measure of uptake • Built communications between disparate researchers and managers • Shifted attention away from just phosphorus control • Reinstated importance of flow management, in regulated rivers • Greater attention to water quality and nutrient control including sediments
Environmental Water Provision • Effects of drought apparent • 1994 COAG Agreement failed to achieve environmental water outcomes • 2004 National Water Initiative • Environmental water restricted by knowledge
Environmental Water Allocation Program 2004-2009 • Scope – national but MDB emphasis • Objectives • Better managing developed systems. Knowledge is not the limitation: need to demonstrate and improve the ecological outcomes produced from environmental allocations. • Understanding undeveloped ecosystems. Limited knowledge ephemeral and monsoonal rivers, groundwater dependent ecosystems and estuaries.
EWA Structure • $4m over 5 years • Commonwealth agency Program Management Committee • Managers: Ian Prosser, Tom Aldred, Jim Donaldson • 12 projects
EWA Achievements • Australia already had strong body of research • Communication products – Fact Sheets – widely distributed • Even so, management uptake • Environmental water buybacks study • Toolbox for GDEs • Water needs of fish in Daly river • Support for CLLAMM
Retrospective • Program planning for NEMP and EWA set scene • Focus catchment engagement excellent • Scientists collaborated very well – not routine in 1995 • $2m and $4m were stretched very far – but good outcomes • Maybe better payoffs with institutional, economic and social research • Australia leader in K&A; but needed even more emphasis on engagement and client readiness • Always long-term benefits are difficult to discern influence
Prospective • Technical eutrophication topics in review paper • Environmental water provisions is the laggard of reform – lack of knowledge is a key impediment • EWA and eutrophication need to be treated together • Changes in flow patterns causes algal blooms, blackwater events, ASS • Poor water quality affects fit-for-purpose water • Being able to predict ecosystem outcomes of flows is the holy grail