Working together to manage water quality following fires

By Administrator
The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (CMA), Goulburn-Murray Water (G-MW), the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH), the Department of Economic Development, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Landcare Networks and the community are working together to implement a variety of measures to monitor and manage water quality in areas recently affected by fire.

Goulburn Broken CMA Strategic River Health and Environmental Water Reserve Coordinator Simon Casanelia said rainfall events can wash ash, nutrients, organic matter and sediment into streams in and downstream of fire affected areas.

“This can affect water quality by increasing turbidity and lowering dissolved oxygen, which may impact aquatic fauna.” Mr Casanelia said.

“The Goulburn Broken CMA is using real time water quality monitoring stations on the Broken River and upper Broken Creek to help identify water quality issues that may arise following the Stewarton fire.

“Water quality in the Broken River has not been significantly affected so far, but monitoring in the upper Broken Creek had shown some impact on water quality following recent rain.

“Dissolved oxygen levels in the upper Broken Creek in and downstream of the fire affected area have decreased, which may have an impact on native fish and platypus in this system.

“The Goulburn Broken CMA, in partnership with G-MW and VEWH, is delivering environmental water to the upper Broken Creek to improve dissolved oxygen levels.  However, aquatic fauna are quite resilient and often recover quickly if they are able to access unaffected habitat.” 

The community, through Goulburn Valley Water’s Waterwatch volunteers, are also playing an important role following the recent fires. 

Goulburn Valley Water Community Education Coordinator David Hodgkins said Waterwatch volunteers had been collecting crucial water quality data in the Goulburn Broken Catchment for more than 20 years. 

“Our volunteers play an important role in collecting long term water quality data in priority streams in the Goulburn Broken catchment.”  Mr Hodgkins said.  “This data allows the assessment of changes in water quality in response to sediment and ash entering waterways following rainfall in burnt areas.”

In waterways in and downstream of the fire affected area at Longwood, Waterwatch volunteers from Creighton’s Creek Landcare Group are playing a crucial role in monitoring local water quality to identify any changes that may impact the community or the environment.  This very active Waterwatch group has been monitoring water quality in the Creighton’s Creek catchment since 2003.

Victorian Department of Economic Development’s Brad Costin said it was great to see farmers, with assistance from the Gecko Clan Landcare Network,  building silt traps to slow the movement of water and allow debris to settle whilst run-off flows into dams and waterways.

"If we get heavy rainfall, the run-off can carry a lot of sediment, organic material, manure and ash. This can have an impact on water quality for stock and domestic dams, and it can affect the capacity of dams, if we get a lot of sediment it can displace water. Silt traps are a practical thing farmers can do to complement the live monitoring and environmental flows now underway,” Mr Costin said.

Residents that rely on private water sources in fire affected areas can access public health information here: http://health.vic.gov.au/environment/bushfires.htm

The community is encouraged to report major water quality changes to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), local water authorities or the Goulburn Broken CMA.

Sediment TrapWagarandall Weir