Let the Rivers Flow!

In National Water Week, with a theme of ‘water — the heart of our culture‘, the River Fellows and their friends from across the Murray-Darling Basin came to Canberra to meet with key politicians, to deliver their message that we need the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to be effective and to deliver enough water to keep our rivers flowing and healthy enough to support river communities.

The River Fellows Program coordinated the Healthy Rivers Roadshows at 11 community meetings across the Murray-Darling Basin, from Dubbo and Broken Hill to Goolwa, Meningie and Adelaide. People with a range of interests and backgrounds came together to hear about the state of the Basin Plan and to show solidarity in standing up for a fair share of water for all communities, upstream and downstream. Petitions signed at these meetings were supported with more than 24,100 signatures, and these were presented to the Prime Minister.

These messages of concern and support were carried into Parliament House in Canberra on Monday 14 Canberra in National Water week. We formed small delegations with representatives from across the Basin to participate in 13 meetings with 14 politicians and 5 key advisors. The 3 key requests made were:

  • implement the Basin Plan in full, with 3200 GL of real water or real equivalent outcomes from proposed water efficiency projects which will reduce the amount of water recovered
  • undertake a judicial enquiry into recent allegations of water theft and capture of environmental water by irrigators
  • not to approve the package of efficiency projects which will reduce the amount of real water recovered until all enquiries are concluded.

This is just one step in the process, with new relationships started, information being exchanged, and ripples spreading out from all our activities in Canberra! Well done River Fellows!

Posted in caring for our planet, community engagement, environmental flows, Murray-Darling Basin, policy, sustainable natural resources management, water issues | Tagged , , , , , ,

Water flowing down the River Murray to South Australia is not wasted!

There is a convenient view by upstream communities and their political representatives that River Murray water flowing to South Australia just evaporates and is wasted. All communities should have a fair share of the limited water available, with enough left in the rivers so they can support us.

The Lower Murray Valley in SA depends on a flowing healthy working River Murray

  • 648 km from SA border to Murray Mouth
  • >3,000 km2 floodplains, 1100 wetlands in 250 complexes
  • 16 towns, 6 settlements, 8 holiday home communities, 5 towns on Lower Lakes
  • 35,000 ha irrigated horticulture in Riverland
  • landscapes, destinations and amenity for river towns, businesses, farmers, fishermen and holiday-makers
  • only has 7% of MDB area and flow volumes.

Water flowing to South Australia from upstream is not wasted, it doesn’t just evaporate

  • provides water supplies to 75% of SA communities in dry years, including Adelaide, Iron Triangle, Yorke Peninsula, Barossa, Clare, Keith
  • supports towns, communities, businesses, agriculture, tourism & State’s economy
  • keeps the River flowing to the Lower Lakes, Coorong and the sea
  • ecosystems filter water, trap sediment and nutrients, buffer floods
  • floods water floodplains and wetlands, kick-starts life-cycles in plants, waterbirds, animals, fish, frogs, yabbies.

Water flowing to the sea is not wasted

  • major component of estuarine water quality, mixing with sea water
  • provides nutrients to estuarine, coastal and marine ecosystems, including key food sources for crayfish nurseries
  • allows fish passage between sea and lakes.

0406 silver lea aerial 2

Posted in caring for our planet, ecosystem services, environmental flows, floods, Murray-Darling Basin, recruitment, sustainable natural resources management, water supply, wetlands | Tagged , , , ,

Green & gold springtime in the Murray River Valley

Springtime this year in the Riverland in the South Australian Murray River Valley is green and gold, with fresh green groundcover plants and shrubs across the floodplains and golden cassia bushes lining the roads. This is the strongest flowering season for cassias in several years, forming extended golden corridors along regional roads. On the floodplains, good seasonal rains have extended the benefits of the 2016 flood, sustaining the improved condition of floodplain vegetation already noticed in 2015 and 2016. Many river red gums and black box trees are now carrying dual crops, with mature fruits crops ready to flower and to release seed in the next 2-3 months. And the pigface adds a contrasting wash of bright pink under the black box trees. Nature is on track for a colourful and healthy season!

Posted in black box, caring for our planet, eucalypts, Murray-Darling Basin, native vegetation, river red gums, seeds, sustainable natural resources management | Tagged , , , ,

Stand up and support delivery of the Murray-Darling Basin

The Healthy Rivers Roadshow has just completed 11 community meetings across the Murray-Darling Basin, from Dubbo and Broken Hill to Goolwa, Meningie and Adelaide. People with a range of interests and backgrounds came together to hear about the state of the Basin Plan and to show solidarity in standing up for a fair share of water for all communities, upstream and downstream.


The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is under threat from upstream interests trying to reduce the amount of water to be returned to keep Basin rivers healthy. Recent documentaries have exposed corruption in water compliance and large-scale theft of water, implicating the NSW government in actions to undermine and subvert the Basin Plan.

Now is the time for ordinary, everyday voters to let politicians know that they support the Plan. The key messages to deliver are that we want the Basin Plan delivered on time, in full (that means 3200 GL of water recovered to keep the rivers healthy enough to support all communities) and with proper and effective compliance with the rules and spirit of the Plan.

Malcolm Turnbull was the first Water Minister back in 2007 when the Basin Plan process started. The current Water Minister Barnaby Joyce has shown clearly that he wants to reduce the amount of water recovered and to give more water to irrigators. It’s time for Malcolm Turnbull to take the lead again, and finish what he started, to ensure that the Basin Plan is effective.


Posted in caring for our planet, community engagement, ecosystem services, environmental flows, Murray-Darling Basin, sustainable natural resources management, water issues, water supply, waterways | Tagged , , , , , ,

Where have all the flowers gone?

When trying to decide how best to apply environmental water to River Murray floodplains, knowing when the dominant eucalypts flowered sets the time when ripe seeds will fall from the trees (12 months after flowering). Therefore, watering at that time of year can support germination and survival of seedlings. That has been the primary guiding principle for environmental watering projects in the Riverland since 2013, with watering timed for summer months when river red gum and black box had been observed flowering over the previous 8-10 years.

black box flowers

The flowering pattern went as expected in 2015, but everything changed in 2016, when around 70% of black box decided to flower profusely in June and again in September, as well as in December. Thanks to timely floods and rains, the trees improved in condition and increased crop volumes, with more frequent flowering and shorter production times, as well as two concurrent and opposite 2-year cycles producing seed every year on the same tree, instead of every second year previously.

The story of these surprising developments has just been published, in a paper started with my PhD supervisor, the late Keith Walker. It is included in a special journal issue commemorating Keith’s lifetime of research on River Murray ecosystems, and his large legacy of students and researchers carrying on his work to understand River Murray ecosystems.

See a copy of the paper hot off the e-press here

Posted in black box, caring for our planet, environmental flows, eucalypts, Murray-Darling Basin, native vegetation, phenological cycles, regeneration, river red gums, sustainable natural resources management | Tagged , , , ,

The Red Centre is not so red just now!

Red sand is in short supply in the Red Centre of Australia just now, rather colours are dominated by dense blond thickets of spinifex, golden yellow senna bushes, silvery blue bush, lilac mulla mulla and green groves of slender young desert oaks like vertical folded umbrellas. The Red Centre is rejoicing in a dense cover of healthy vegetation and young plants following a series of good rain events. Useful rains 6 weeks ago built on large rainfall events in March earlier this year and May last year. It’s a great time to visit the Red Centre!

Posted in caring for our planet, native vegetation, rainfall, regeneration, weather patterns | Tagged , ,

River Red Gum Communities in the Northern & Yorke Region are suffering from decline and lack of regeneration

Surveys of the condition of river red gum communities in the mid-north of South Australia from 2008 to 2016 have returned alarming findings. Not only are the mature trees declining in condition, but there is no regeneration occurring to replace them and the age gap in red gum populations is widening. Without active intervention, the Northern & Yorke region could lose its classic red gum landscapes in 30-50 years. The results of these surveys, carried out for the Northern & Yorke Natural Resources Management Board, were presented at the Goyder Water Forum in July 2017.

Severe die-back was noted in river red gum communities in the Northern & Yorke region in 2005. From 2008-2015, over 60 sites were monitored annually in Broughton, Mambray Coast, Wakefield and Willochra catchments. The overall cause of die-back was found to be reduced water availability, with declining regional rainfall and increased extraction from catchments.

From stressed condition in 2008, red gum communities partially recovered in 2010-11, following good rainfall. Site condition deteriorated again in 2012-13, coupled with heavy insect attack. Levels of insect attack in 2014-15 were insignificant, and canopy condition improved as epicormic growth converted to normal tip growth. Recovery continued in mature trees in 2015, but with lower scores than 2008. All catchments had trees with dual crops, indicating healthy seed volumes available. 

However, no regeneration of red gum seedlings has been found at any monitoring sites from 2008 to 2016. The primary factors preventing regeneration appear to be competition from dense spring weeds in riparian zones and from early annual growth of reedbeds in watercourses due to declining flows.

Active intervention will be required to sustain red gum communities in the long term. Otherwise, there is an increasing risk that aging and water-stressed river red gum communities will gradually disappear from regional landscapes. A proposal presented to the NRM Board in 2016 recommended a target of 20% multi-layered native vegetation in regional landscapes, and a citizen science program is being developed in 2017 to encourage landholders and community groups to promote germination and survival of red gum seedlings.

The presentation can be viewed here: http://www.goyderinstitute.org/_r721/media/system/attrib/file/448/Jensen%20NY%20red%20gums.pdf


incoming 321



Posted in caring for our planet, eucalypts, native vegetation, recruitment, sustainable natural resources management, water issues | Tagged , , , , , ,