UNE and Eco Logical Australia awarded long-term projects to monitor river health in the Murray-Darling Basin

Published 18 March 2015

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 10.59.10 amResearchers from the University of New England and local company Eco Logical Australia have been awarded two multi-million dollar projects to monitor and evaluate the effects of environmental watering of key rivers and wetlands in the northern Murray-Darling Basin.

The five-year projects are funded by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and are designed to assess the benefit of delivering environmental water back to the Murray-Darling Basin.

The consortium is monitoring the Gwydir River wetlands near Moree and Toorale station near Bourke on the Junction of the Darling and Warrego Rivers.

Co-leader of the program, Associate Professor Darren Ryder from UNE’s School of Environmental and Rural Science, says the projects commenced in late 2014 with sampling in the Gwydir wetlands already underway, looking at water quality, vegetation, birds and fish.

“These projects allow us to track the health of rivers and wetlands over 5 years, with the long term aim to restore our rivers and maintain productive industries and communities in the northern Murray-Darling Basin,” A/Professor Ryder said.

The Consortium was awarded both of the sites in the northern Murray-Darling Basin after a competitive process open to all universities and environmental consultants in Australia.

“This is a great partnership that recognises the quality of aquatic research being done at UNE,” A/Professor Ryder said.

Co-leader of the program and Associate Director of Eco Logical Dr Paul Frazier said that the project management experience and breadth of research expertise at Eco Logical combined with the freshwater research capacity at UNE proved a successful partnership.

“The award of these two multi-million dollar projects will provide great opportunities for employment and training in the local region,” Dr Frazier said.

“We also look forward to employing some of the great graduates from UNE.”

The consortium is keen to pursue local involvement in these projects, both in an advisory capacity such as through the Gwydir Environmental Contingency Allowance Operational Advisory Committee, and the Toorale National Park Joint Management Advisory Committee, but also by getting local people involved in on-ground monitoring activities.

“We’ve already had locals assisting with the Gwydir project, helping to undertake bird surveys with our ecologists, which is great.” Dr Frazier said.

The long term funding for this program means that the outcomes from monitoring can be fed back into management of the water through partnerships with the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage and the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (Fishing and Aquaculture), meaning that environmental outcomes are maximised from the available water.