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Caldwell's Waterhole 2016 floods

Time lapse cameras have captured the rise and fall of floodwaters at Caldwell's Waterhole in the Murray valley. The images provide valuable information about the movement of water across the floodplain.

This data helps to inform the future management of water to support the health of rivers, creeks and wetlands as well as native plants and animals.

Cameras were set up to capture two images per day as well as the animals that triggered the camera's motion sensors. Ducks, herons, eastern grey kangaroos, swamp wallaby and emus all made an appearance.

The footage also documents the emergence of water ribbons as floodwaters rise, and spike rush as the floodwaters recede.

Quambies Road 2016 floods

Time lapse cameras have captured the rise and fall of floodwaters at Quambies Road in the Murray valley.

The images provide valuable information about the movement of water across the floodplain.

This data helps to inform the future management of water to support the health of rivers, creeks and wetlands as well as native plants and animals.

Cameras were set up to capture two images per day as well as the animals that triggered the camera's motion sensors.

Bush birds respond to environmental water in Murray - August 2016

There's fresh hope for woodland bird populations thanks to environmental water. The latest research, focusing on wetlands in southern NSW, shows that woodland birds are responding to environmental water by feeding and - most importantly - breeding in nearby bushland.

While the link between wetlands and waterbirds is clear, the role environmental water plays in supporting woodland birds, and other terrestrial species, along the River Murray is only now being monitored and understood. Over the past 12 months, close to 300 bird surveys have been conducted in Murray Valley National Park in southern NSW.

Ecologist Rick Webster said surveys showed the diversity and number of birds was substantially higher in areas that had received environmental water compared with areas that had not.

The survey results demonstrate that numerous woodland birds are benefiting from environmental watering including species known to be declining across the mid-West of NSW.

'Brown treecreepers, red-capped robins, dusky woodswallows and restless flycatchers have all been observed in increasing numbers in and around areas of environmental watering,' Mr Webster said.

Dusky woodswallow

Dusky woodswallow. Photo: Mick Todd, OEH

Red-capped robin

Red-capped robin. Photo: Mick Todd, OEH

'Water has led to an increase in the biomass of vegetation - plants are healthier and the ground layer is more diverse. At the same time, we've seen an increase in the variety and abundance of insects which are a staple food for most birds.

'In Murray Valley National Park, these improved conditions have resulted in many woodland birds nesting and producing young, including white-throated treecreepers, crested shrike-tits, black-faced cuckoo-shrikes and dusky woodswallows,' he said.

Black-faced cuckoo-shrike

Black-faced cuckoo-shrike. Photo: Mick Todd, OEH

'The effects of environmental watering can be seen well beyond the confines of the river bank.

'Water flows out into the forest via a network of creeks, wetlands and underground aquifers. Plants far away from the original water source are able to tap into flows above and below ground and respond by increasing their foliage, flowering and setting seed,' Mr Webster said.

'In turn, these plants provide ideal habitat where birds can feed and nest.

'Aquatic plants respond too and this diversity of plant life allows a range of insects to survive and provide a food source to various bush birds that feed within different levels of the vegetation,' he said.

The survey results are good news for surrounding regions.

'Murray Valley National Park forms part of a vegetated corridor along the River Murray. These forests act as a 'source' of birds for the surrounding regions where they may be declining,' he said.

'At different times of the year, the woodland birds move in and out of the forest depending on their needs. Rainbow bee-eaters, sacred kingfishers, white winged-trillers and leaden flycatchers move into the forest over spring, summer and autumn while winter migrants like the flame robin make use of the forests during the cooler months.

Rainbow bee-eater

Rainbow bee-eater. Photo: Mick Todd, OEH

'Then there are the birds that come and go depending on seasonal conditions in other vegetation communities in the surrounding region. Fuscous and yellow-faced honeyeaters have been recorded in the park when conditions are dry in the box and ironbark forests of northern Victoria.

'This makes environmental watering even more important for maintaining a healthy habitat and ensuring we continue to see these beautiful birds in our backyards and natural bushland,' Mr Webster said.

The results of these woodland bird surveys are helping to inform the management of environmental watering events within Murray Valley National Park and beyond. The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage is the lead agency for management and delivery of water for environmental uses in NSW.

Senior Environmental Water Manager Paul Childs said waterbirds often steal the spotlight when it comes to environmental watering success stories, but woodland birds are just as important.

'Wetland and woodland birds have an important role to play in the floodplain ecosystem and the broader landscape,' Mr Childs said.

'Birds are predominantly insectivores and often eat the insects that we would consider pests. This has important implications for agricultural industries and communities.

'Some of the insects eaten by birds are responsible for eucalypt dieback, so healthy bird populations are essential to ensuring healthy trees in towns, on farms and within the wetland/woodland environment.

'Along with bees, birds are pollinators and can play an important role in food production.

'Birds also provide a clear economic benefit in terms of tourism. Birdwatchers will travel hundreds of kilometres and spend thousands of dollars in local communities to see the birds that are unique to a particular region.

'In southern NSW, we can lay claim to several species that are particularly sought-after by birdwatchers - superb parrots, Australasian bitterns, painted snipes, brolgas and rainbow bee-eaters.

Brolga

Brolga. Photo: Mick Todd, OEH

'Native birds also have significant cultural importance as a traditional source of food for Aboriginal people and totem species linking Aboriginal people to special places within the landscape.

'The results of this latest round of bird surveys do influence the ways in which we manage environmental water events in the Murray valley. The needs of woodland and wetland birds help to determine the timing of watering events, the extent and duration. Having the science to back up our decision making processes ensures a transparent and well informed pathway with clear benefits to all stakeholders,' Mr Childs said.

Bird surveys have been undertaken as part of The Living Murray (TLM) bush bird condition monitoring and in order to provide baseline information prior to an ecological thinning trial in Murray Valley National Park. The baseline information will allow for monitoring of any changes in bush bird species diversity and populations.

Water for Gwynne's Creek - June 2016

Sneezeweed, water rats and Warrego summer grass are three species to benefit from recent watering at Gwynne's Creek, near Wakool.

Frog numbers have also surged and river red gums have responded with new growth.

They're pleasing outcomes for landholders and water managers who are working together to restore the health of the ephemeral creek.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage has managed the delivery of water to support Gwynne's Creek over a number of years.

The most recent event saw 800 megalitres of NSW-owned Adaptive Environmental Water (AEW) delivered into the Jimaringle, Cockrans and Gwynne's Creek (JCGC) system, which includes a 15 kilometre stretch of Gwynne's Creek.

OEH Water Manager Emma Wilson said the watering event had led to some particularly pleasing results.

'For the first time we have seen the understorey respond to flows with Warrego summer grass and various herbaceous plants bursting into life as well as the emergence of sneezeweed,' Ms Wilson said.

'Sneezeweed - also known as old man weed - is a traditional medicine for Aboriginal people used in the treatment of infection and inflammation.

'After an absence of many years, it is great to see it re-appear as a result of repeated watering events,' she said.

Endangered southern bell frogs are known to breed at Gwynne's Creek, but this year, several other frog species have joined the chorus and responded to the improved understorey vegetation.

'This year we have seen Peron's tree frogs, spotted and barking marsh frogs and Eastern common froglets,' Ms Wilson said.

'It's great to see this diversity of wildlife responding to water.

'It's a positive indication that the health of Gwynne's Creek is improving,' she said.

Gwynne's Creek is located east of Wakool in an area affected by salinity and acid sulfate soils. The creek is disconnected from its natural source, the Colligen Creek, as a result of river regulation.

In order to deliver water to the site, OEH employs a mixture of Murray Irrigation and private infrastructure.

Landholders play a central role in delivering water to Gwynne's Creek and monitoring water levels during the flow period.

Water flows into Thegoa Lagoon - June 2016

Water is flowing into Thegoa Lagoon after a red alert for blue-green algae in the Murray River was lifted.

Up to 1300 megalitres of environmental water is being released into the lagoon over the next month.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage is managing the delivery of water to support the health of the lagoon.

Water management officer Sascha Healy said the watering event would bring new life to the lagoon and invigorate a popular community site.

"The water will provide a welcome boost to fringing river red gums and aquatic plants that provide shelter and food for wetland animals," Ms Healy said.

"Native fish are expected to benefit along with birds and frogs.

"The timing of the flow means carp are less likely to move into the system as they are less mobile in colder weather.

"Carp screens will further reduce the movement of the larger carp, while smaller native fish can move freely into the lagoon and make use of the revitalised wetland," she said.

The watering event was first scheduled to begin in late May. Water managers made the decision to delay watering when blue green algae was detected in the adjacent river.

Water starts to flow into Thegoa Lagoon

Water starts to flow into Thegoa Lagoon

Jack Garraway of Wentworth Shire Council and OEH environmental water manager Sascha Healy

Jack Garraway of Wentworth Shire Council and OEH environmental water manager Sascha Healy

Water starts to flow into Thegoa Lagoon

Water starts to flow into Thegoa Lagoon

Big wet for Speewa Creek - May 2016

Local landholders are playing a central role in the delivery of water to Speewa Creek near Swan Hill that started this week.

Working in partnership with the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), three farmers will use their own pumps and irrigation infrastructure to deliver up to 1000 megalitres of environmental water to the 15km ephemeral creek.

OEH's Environmental Water Management Officer Sascha Healy said the delivery of water will continue for around four weeks with the water expected to remain in the system for several months.

Read the full media release: 26 May 2016

Plans to refill Thegoa Lagoon have been delayed due to blue green algae in the Murray River

OEH water management officer Sascha Healy said blue green algae levels were decreasing across the Sunraysia region but the red alert remained as at June 6.

'We still plan to fill Thegoa Lagoon, but the start date will be delayed until the risk of introducing blue green algae into the lagoon has passed,' Ms Healy said.

'There are promising signs upstream with the red alert lifted between Hume Dam and Corowa.

'In the meantime, we thank the Wentworth community for their patience and will continue to provide updates via the OEH website,' Ms Healy said.

Landholders within the red alert zone can access advice via the DPI Water website.

Water in, carp out at Thegoa Lagoon - April 2016

After drying down over summer to a series of residual pools, a delivery of water to re-fill Thegoa Lagoon is planned for 2 May.

Native fish, frogs, birds and turtles are expected to return to the lagoon, providing a wetland spectacle for locals and tourists alike.

The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) is managing the delivery of 1800 megalitres of NSW water to the popular community site in collaboration with Wentworth Shire Council.

The flow of water, beginning in May, is welcome news for residents and local tourism operators who are keen to see the lagoon restored to its picturesque best.

Read the full media release: 26 April 2016

Frogs out in force near Wentworth – March 2016

Frog numbers have bounced back after environmental water flowed into wetlands west of Wentworth.

Five species of native frog were identified during monitoring of an environmental watering event at 'Grand Junction', near the Darling Anabranch.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) managed the delivery of 1000 megalitres of water from NSW holdings to an ephemeral creek and shallow lagoon on the property.

Environmental water management officer Sascha Healy said the outcomes demonstrated the value of repeated watering events.

'The plant and animal response has been fantastic,' Ms Healy said.

'The River Red Gums in particular have been more responsive to the water this time around with an obvious improvement in plant health.

'We have found more species of aquatic plants like water couches and water primrose.

'A wide range of waterbirds, including egrets, spoonbills, ducks and teals, have also been seen using the wetlands.

'And the frogs have made a comeback.

'Banjo frogs, Peron's tree frogs, Plains froglets, Spotted marsh frogs and Barking marsh frogs have all bounced back in the wetlands in reasonable numbers.

'To think these animals have hunkered down for years between the 2009 watering by OEH and the 2011 floods, and then again until water arrived this year is testament to their survival skills.

'It also demonstrates the importance of providing water at intervals.

'It's a great outcome, particularly for the mature River Red Gums that had been showing water stress due to prolonged drought.

'This site shows just how important it is to connect water 'overbank' from the river.

'By maintaining the site, we hope to see further improvements and even more plants and animals completing their life cycles in these important wetlands,' she said.

Bitterns boom in border wetlands

Bitterns are booming in wetlands along the Murray River.

Scientists estimate upwards of 200 Australasian bitterns are currently nesting in the Barmah-Millewa forest, enjoying the benefits of environmental water.

This endangered bird can be hard to spot in the wild, but its distinctive booming call is cause for celebration in the border wetlands.

Environmental water has been flowing into the forests for a number of months triggering an explosion in the food chain and providing ideal conditions for the bitterns to feed and breed.

Monitoring has yielded some promising and surprising results.

Just last month, staff from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and Commonwealth Environmental Water Office observed three Australasian bitterns circling above the wetlands at Reed Beds Swamp, south of Deniliquin.

The behaviour is quite unusual for the mainly solitary and secretive bird, but it hints at the density of breeding animals within the wetland.

Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Water Manager Paul Childs said an estimated 20% of the Australasian bittern population was now occupying the Barmah-Millewa forest.

'They're just one part of an entire ecosystem benefitting from environmental water,' he said.

'We have seen a surge in insect numbers which provide food for higher order predators like birds, fish and frogs.

'The Moira grass plains are responding well and the health of river red gums is improving.

'These results show us we are on the right track in developing the strategies that will keep the floodplain healthy and productive for plants, animals and people alike,' he said.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is monitoring both the bittern and general waterbird response.

NPWS Rehabilitation Officer Rick Webster said the large diversity of waterbirds including Australasian bitterns (listed as endangered under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999) reflected the good health of sites targeted for watering.

'As well as Australasian bitterns, our monitoring has detected large numbers of colonial waterbirds including white-necked and white-faced herons, Nankeen night herons, eastern great and intermediate egrets, Australasian darters, little pied cormorants, white bellied sea-eagles, whiskered terns, black winged stilt and Australian white and straw-necked ibis,' Mr Webster said.

'These birds are revelling in the diversity of aquatic plants that have emerged as the watering event continues.

'All-in-all, it's a pleasing outcome,' he said.

Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder David Papps said it was great to see Australasian bitterns enjoying the wetland habitats throughout the Barmah-Millewa forests following recent environmental watering events.

'Using environmental water to conserve the Australasian bittern in the Barmah-Millewa forest is part of a collaborative effort between multiple agencies,' he said.

Three bitterns in flight at Reed Beds Lagoon – a rare sight

Three bitterns in flight at Reed Beds Lagoon – a rare sight

OEH water manager Paul Childs inspects a song meter to record bittern calls

OEH water manager Paul Childs inspects a song meter to record bittern calls

This environmental watering event has involved several government agencies with water supplied by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, Murray-Darling Basin Authority (under The Living Murray program) and NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

NSW OEH staff and the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority have provided advice to the River Murray Operations Advisory Group (MDBA) which has co-ordinated the flow in collaboration with WaterNSW, the Victorian Environmental Water Holder and Goulburn-Murray Water.

Monitoring is being carried out by the National Parks and Wildlife Service supported in part by The Living Murray program.

The Living Murray is a joint initiative funded by the NSW, Victorian, South Australian, Australian Capital Territory and Commonwealth governments, co-ordinated by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA).

Rare grassland at home in southern wetlands

Reed Beds Lagoon in the Millewa forest

Reed Beds Lagoon in the Millewa forest

Birds nest in it.

Fish feed under it.

Frogs find refuge among its spiky stems.

But what is 'it'?

In the Barmah-Millewa Forest you'll find a distinctive grassy wetland known locally as the Moira grass plains.

This aquatic grass - also known as spiny mud grass - dominates vast open wetlands in the Moira precinct of the NSW Murray Valley National Park.

With its spiky rush-like leaf, Moira grass thrives in warm to hot conditions, lying dormant in the soil before bursting into life when water arrives.

But not just any water will do. Timing is everything. Water depth is another. And the length of inundation is just as important.

That's where the work of environmental water managers comes to the fore.

A total of 15,000 megalitres of environmental water has been delivered to the Moira grass plains at Reed Beds Swamp over spring and early summer.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage is managing the latest delivery of water to allow Moira grass to grow before setting seed over summer.

Senior Environmental Water Manager Paul Childs said Moira grass performed several vital functions on the floodplain.

'Historically, the Moira grass plains were a highly valued food resource for local Aboriginal people,' Mr Childs said.

'This is evident by the large number of scar trees, oven mounds and middens located in the immediate area.

'Moira grass provides nesting and foraging habitat for an array of waterbirds including species protected by bilateral agreements between Australia, China and Japan.

'Grebes and whiskered terns build their nests on floating platforms created by the Moira grass.

'The grasses provide a hunting ground for the birds that feast on frogs, insects and other small invertebrates in the wetland.

'Floating Moira grass platforms offer a shady sanctuary for native fish including golden perch and the critically endangered silver perch.

'They feed on the abundance of insects and small invertebrates whose numbers have exploded with the arrival of water.

'Their young also make use of the slower moving water to feed in the warm, nutrient-rich wetlands.

'Beneath the surface of the water, the tangle of Moira grass stems slows and filters the water as it moves through the wetland and back to the river.

'When first flooded, the Moira grass plains release large amounts of carbon that energise the river system and strengthen the food web - from tiny freshwater plankton and middle-order consumers up to top-order predators such as native fish and waterbirds.

'The roots of the Moira grass plant also add stability to the soil during inundation.

'And, as the water recedes, the matted vegetation settles to the floor of the wetland and draws on soil moisture for a period of time before drying and providing a thick compost layer which further slows evaporation from the wetland.

'It's an ingenious system, but one that requires careful management to ensure its survival,' Mr Childs said.

The extent of Moira grass wetlands in the Barmah-Millewa forest is declining.

The plant has very specific water needs in order to fulfil its life cycle to the point of flowering and setting seed.

'Since river regulation, reductions in the frequency, depth and length of inundation mean that Moira grass does not have the same opportunities it once did to complete its life cycle,' Mr Childs said.

'These changed conditions have allowed river red gum and giant rush to encroach on the Moira grass plain.

'It's estimated, from aerial imagery, that the extent of this particular wetland has retreated some 90% since the 1970s.

'That's why active management of the site and strategic delivery of water is essential.

'Especially when you consider the multitude of benefits this plant provides for the wetland and river system including habitat, food, water filtration, carbon supply and soil stabilisation,' he said.

Environmental water for this event has been allocated from NSW Adaptive Environmental Water (NSW AEW) holdings, NSW Additional Environmental Water Allowance (AEA), The Living Murray (TLM) and Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.

The event has been complemented by additional rainfall inflows, operational transfers to meet downstream consumptive demands and a rainfall rejection event which generated high flow pulses that have been strategically directed into the Barmah-Millewa Forest. Combined, these flows have demonstrated the highly efficient use of environmental water.

Fast facts

  • Moira grass is listed as a 'critical wetland type' and wetland of international importance under the Ramsar convention.
  • Moira grass can grow more than 20 millimetres per day under ideal conditions.
  • Before it reaches the surface, Moira grass is thought to oxygenate the water.
  • The Moira grass plains were a highly valued food source for local Aboriginal people.
  • Early settlers used the Moira grass plains as a source of supplementary feed for stock.
  • While found in small numbers at several locations, the Moira grass plains of the Millewa (NSW) and Barmah (Victoria) forests are rare because of their dominance in the wetland.
  • The drying phase of the Moira grass life cycle serves to insulate the wetland - as water recedes, the grassy mats settle on the floodplain floor, helping to slow evaporation from the wetland.
  • Moira grass is also known as spiny mud grass (Pseudoraphis spinescens).
  • Water managers in Victoria are also managing environmental flows for the benefit of Moira grass plains in Barmah National Park.
A Moira grass mat forms in the Millewa forest wetland. Photo N Childs OEH.

A Moira grass mat forms in the Millewa forest wetland. Photo N Childs OEH.

Moira grass is setting seed in the Barmah-Millewa forest. Photo N Childs OEH.

Moira grass is setting seed in the Barmah-Millewa forest. Photo N Childs OEH.

Faster flows trigger fish breeding frenzy

Frisky fish have taken advantage of a river pulse to spawn in the waters of the Murray River.

A small, fast flowing event took place in October, designed by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI Fisheries) and Victoria's Arthur Rylah Institute, to support native fish breeding.

And it appears to have been a success.

Monitoring has detected promising numbers of native fish larvae.

Both sides of the border are likely to see the benefits as the next generation of native fish grow and migrate.

NSW DPI Senior Fisheries Manager Dr Katherine Cheshire said environmental water was used to create suitable breeding conditions.

'All fish need water to survive, but in order to support breeding, conditions need to be just right,' Dr Cheshire said.

'Fish, like golden perch and silver perch, are thought to be 'flow-dependent specialists'.

'They require water to be flowing quickly at the right time of year in order to breed successfully.

'Their biological rhythms are linked to changes in water speed, temperature, depth and turbulence.

'When the conditions are right they start to breed and the intensity of that breeding increases with higher flows, particularly those that inundate the flood plain.

'After spawning, perch eggs and larvae drift downstream for days and/or weeks before settling into juvenile habitat.

'If river flows are high enough and water is flowing over the river bank or out into the creeks, the juveniles move with it into the nutrient-rich waters of the floodplain.

'There, they grow to be fat, happy fish before returning to the river when waters recede,' she said.

Dr Cheshire said golden perch and silver perch may spawn without floods or flow pulses but spawning intensity may be reduced.

'The results of this project will help to inform the management of environmental water on both sides of the border,' Dr Cheshire said.

'By understanding the complex requirements of native fish, water managers can target those needs and deliver water most effectively,' she said.

Researchers from Victoria's Arthur Rylah Institute are keeping a close eye on the event as part of The Living Murray and Murray Darling Basin Authority monitoring program.

Senior scientist Zeb Tonkin said drift net surveys were being conducted during the peak perch spawning period.

'Monitoring so far has detected both golden and silver perch spawning as a result of the pulsed delivery of environmental water,' Mr Tonkin said.

'In spite of a relatively dry season, we are still seeing some great outcomes for fish.

'We hope to track the outcomes of this spawning using annual surveys targeting juvenile and adult fish in the Barmah-Millewa region and beyond.

'These species are known to move beyond the Barmah-Millewa region of the Murray River as they grow up.

'Using findings from surveys conducted at other sites along the Murray and its tributaries can help track the success of these spawning events,' he said.

The Victorian Environmental Water Holder worked with the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority to manage the delivery of water supplied by TLM and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.

Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder David Papps said the project was testament to the collaborative efforts of scientists, environmental water managers and environmental water holders.

'Creating opportunities for native fish movement and breeding is not only good for the environment, it is also good news for the Murray Darling Basin's 430,000 recreational anglers,' Mr Papps said.

'Recent successes reaffirm that using the right volume of environmental water in the right location at the right time and at the right temperature has real benefits for native fish.

'Using water carried over from 2014-15 to provide variable flows has improved connectivity between the river and a range of floodplain habitats and food sources around the Barmah-Millewa Forest,' he said.

The watering project has been a collaboration between NSW, Victorian and Commonwealth authorities with water from The Living Murray and Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder managed by the Victorian Environmental Water Holder, MDBA River Operations and Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority.

Landholders looking after frogs

Nampoo wetland. Photo S Healy OEH.

Nampoo wetland. Photo S Healy OEH.

Endangered frogs can thank landholders for their survival in far south-west NSW.

Just a few kilometres from the South Australian border, on the Murray River, two landholders are managing their wetlands specifically for the protection of the Southern Bell Frog.

Mick Greatz and Paul Cohrs have seen the difference water can make and are doing their bit to safeguard the future of this distinctive native frog and its wetland habitat.

As part of their management strategy, the landholders are working with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage to deliver environmental water to their wetlands.

For Mick Greatz, the use of environmental water is an opportunity to see positive change in the health of wetlands on his property.

'As a 10 year old I vividly remembered the life and sounds that arrived in the wetland soon after natural flood waters,' Mr Greatz said.

'That's why I wanted to get involved with environmental water.

'My family and I saw a definite decline in wetland health during the drought and lower river flows.

'But environmental water has given us an opportunity to reverse that.

'At Cliffhouse, we've seen regeneration of red gums and black box as well as other native varieties.

'Discovering southern bell frogs and white-breasted sea-eagles making use of the wetlands are two of the most exciting outcomes for me,' he said.

Paul Cohrs and his family have a keen interest in the environment and have watched the overall health of their wetlands improve since environmental watering began.

 

Cliffhouse Southern bell frog habitat. Photo S Healy OEH.

Cliffhouse Southern bell frog habitat. Photo S Healy OEH.

'It is amazing to see the increase in frog numbers, water birds, insects and reptiles,' Mr Cohrs said.

 

'We run a small tourism business and our visitors are amazed by the abundant and diverse array of wildlife and vegetation when walking through the area.

'There are other wetlands on our property that do not receive environmental flows and the difference is like chalk and cheese.

'Before environmental flows we noticed many of the majestic river red gums, box trees and native vegetation dying due to lack of water and worsening salinisation.

'We have found it extremely rewarding working with the NSW OEH and feel that the work they carry out on our wetlands is vital in assisting us to maintain the health of our ecosystem,' he said.

Since 2008, the Nampoo and Cliffhouse sites have been targeted on three occasions for environmental flows.

A fourth watering event in October, topped up the wetlands before the heat of summer.

Environmental water management officer Sascha Healy said the work of landholders combined with environmental water had been key to the frog's survival in this region.

'Before we began watering these sites there was only anecdotal evidence of the frogs surviving in very limited pockets in the area,' Ms Healy said.

'Since the first delivery of environmental water, the frogs have been popping up wherever environmental water has flowed.

'In fact, one of the sites took delivery of its first environmental water just last year and already the frogs are making themselves at home,' Ms Healy said.

These landholders have gone one step further than just inviting the delivery of environmental water onto their properties.

'They have recognised the conservation value of their wetlands and are actively managing them specifically for the frogs,' Ms Healy said.

'There's no stocking or cropping to impact on the sites.

'When managed together the sites provide connectivity for the frogs so they can move more readily through the ecosystem.

'Environmental water is supporting and enhancing the health of the ecosystems, increasing their resilience as we head into warmer weather,' Ms Healy said.

Water provides summer sanctuary

Egrets - great and small - will have a summer sanctuary close to Barham thanks to environmental watering at Pollack Swamp.

As part of wetland restoration works across the mid-Murray, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and Forestry Corporation NSW are managing the delivery of 1500 megalitres of environmental water to the site.

The water is providing a much needed drink to river red gums surrounding the swamp and supporting healthy habitat for native wildlife.

Senior Environmental Water Manager Paul Childs said flows would encourage a range of aquatic and terrestrial plants to establish and set seed at the site.

'Together with Forestry Corporation NSW, we have already delivered 1000 megalitres of environmental water,' Mr Childs said.

'A further 500 megalitres will allow us to increase the extent and duration of inundation.

'In doing so, we can support a range of native waterbirds and ensure the swamp can provide adequate refuge for plants and animals over summer,' he said.

Forestry Corporation District Manager Andrew McCurdy said the project was a collaborative effort, with water being delivered via Bringan Irrigation Trust infrastructure.

'To complement the watering event and support nearby landholders, we have carried out fox baiting,' Mr McCurdy said.

'We're also monitoring the event by way of bird, frog and vegetation surveys.

'Several photo points have been established to capture a visual record of the vegetation response and song meters are being used to record frog activity.

'Water quality data is also being collected,' he said.

The watering project is a collaboration between NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Forestry Corporation NSW and the Bringan Irrigation Trust.

Surveys have been funded by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

Water for the event has been provided by the NSW OEH adaptive environmental water allocation.

Landholders assist with environmental water deliveries (Autumn 2015)

Landholders are playing a central role in the delivery of environmental water to Yarrein Creek, near Moulamein.

Following a request from the community and a meeting with landholders, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) committed up to 3,000 megalitres of environmental water to the project.

Senior Environmental Water Manager Paul Childs said the water was being delivered via Murray Irrigation infrastructure with assistance from landholders throughout the event.

'Changes to the Yarrein Creek's hydrology have led to a range of issues including salinity and declining habitat values for birds, frogs and fish,' Mr Childs said.

'The creek once connected the Edward and Niemur rivers during times of high water flow.

'The creek hasn't seen an end-of-river flow since the 1970s,' he said.

In partnership with local landholders, the OEH is running a trial watering event in the upper and mid sections of the Yarrein Creek.

'The aim of the flow is to reinstate a wetting phase and 'prime' the system in anticipation of an additional flow - pending available water - in 2015/16,' Mr Childs said.

'The flow will inundate about 30 per cent of the creek and allow water managers to gain a better understanding of how water moves through the system and the volume of water that can be carried.

Environmental water is being delivered via Murray Irrigation's Northern, Northern 7, Northern 8 and Mallan escapes.

Flows will be monitored closely to minimise the chance of interrupting access for nearby landholders.

'The OEH will monitor flow movement and vegetation response with assistance from landholders and Murray Irrigation,' Mr Childs said.

Water at work in Speewa Creek

View along Speewa Creek.

The Speewa Creek, near Swan Hill.

From their cool, quiet hiding places on the banks of Speewa Creek, three frog species have emerged after environmental water revived their wetland habitat.

An environmental flow of 500 megalitres was delivered to the creek, north of Swan Hill, in June 2014.

As well as three species of frogs including the Common Eastern Froglet (Crinia signifera), the Plains Froglet (C.parinsignifera) and the Spotted Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis), Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) field staff observed aquatic plants such as Water primrose (Ludwegia montevidensis), Spike rush (Eleocharis acuta) and Common nardoo (Marselia drummondii) emerging from the creek channel.

Assistant Environmental Water Management Officer Sascha Healy said the OEH had worked closely with the Speewa Island Trust to deliver 500 megalitres of environmental water to a section of the creek, approximately 10 kilometres long.

'The OEH set aside 500 megalitres of environmental water for the creek, delivered via Speewa Island Trust pump and canal infrastructure,' Ms Healy said.

'Speewa Creek typically only receives water from the Murray River during high flows, so it is necessary to pump the water into the creek.

'The environmental water is expected to remain in the channel for approximately three or four months before evaporating. 

'This was the first environmental watering for Speewa Creek and the response so far has been encouraging.

'We have detected three species of frogs at this stage and expect to find several more when we conduct follow-up environmental flows in the 2014/15 water year,' Ms Healy said.

With further environmental watering, OEH staff hope to see a vegetation response in the understorey as well.

Speewa Creek was dry throughout the millennium drought and the condition of mature River Red Gums lining its banks was considered poor to moderate.

Landholders reported some improvement after the drought broke with environmental flows supporting the ongoing health of the wetland ecosystem.

New lease on life for Bottle Bend

Black Box woodlands are bouncing back to health after environmental water provided a much-needed boost in the Bottle Bend Reserve near Mildura.

View over Bottle Bend Reserve.

Bottle Bend Reserve during environmental watering.

A 423 hectare site, including Black Box woodland and wetland vegetation, was earmarked for environmental flows by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

An allocation of 1,650 megalitres was delivered in 2012/13 with a further 2000 megalitres provided in 2013/14.

Assistant Environmental Water Management Officer Sascha Healy said the OEH had worked closely with Crown Lands, who manage the 1700 hectare reserve, to deliver the environmental flows.

'This site is the largest Black Box woodland to be targeted with environmental water in southern NSW,' Ms Healy said.

'As a result of the watering event, we have seen the condition of mature Black Box visually improve. They have set seed and saplings have emerged.

'Wetland plants including nardoo, water ribbon and spike rush have responded and the watering has provided an opportunity for plants to recruit and reset the seed bank.

'The event has attracted numerous birds including spoonbills, herons and egrets with confirmed sightings of the threatened Hooded Robin.

'This was an area that had not received any natural flows for around two decades and, as a result, the floodplain had been in poor health for years.

'When you consider the condition of the floodplain prior to watering, the flora and fauna response that we have observed so far is fantastic,' she said.

The OEH has incorporated soil moisture mapping into its monitoring program – an initiative that will provide water managers with more detail on the effects of environmental watering on the soil profile and vegetation root zones.

The Bottle Bend watering event has also provided an opportunity for members of the Barkindji Maraura Elders Environment Team (BMEET) to assist OEH with ecological monitoring and cultural heritage surveys on the reserve.

A small team from BMEET took part in vegetation, waterbird and water quality monitoring with Ms Healy. BMEET participants also accompanied Ms Healy, OEH archaeologist  Harvey Johnston and Heritage Information Officer Mick Kelly, as they revisited a number of known heritage sites documented more than 20 years ago. A number of additional significant features including scar trees, canoe trees, burial sites, fireplaces and middens were identified during the survey.

BMEET Project Co-ordinator Tom Fagan said the experience for BMEET employees had been invaluable.

'The survey was a great opportunity for the traditional owners of the land to learn and share their knowledge' Mr Fagan said.

'Participants were pleased to find that a number of the sensitive sites were more extensive than the original survey suggested.

'This opportunity was a chance to increase the wider community's appreciation of traditional lands and provide a deeper understanding of why they are so important.

'The Barkindji men really appreciated the enthusiasm of OEH staff in helping them gain some skills in natural resource management and link cultural knowledge into land and water management, he said.

Frogs bounce back after environmental flows

The Southern Bell Frog has responded well to environmental water. Photo: D Hunter OEH

The Southern Bell Frog has responded well to environmental water. Photo D Hunter OEH

Southern Bell Frogs have struck up a chorus at sites near Wakool and Murray Downs as environmental water creates ideal conditions for breeding.

As part of a targeted watering initiative, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage is managing the delivery of flows to the sites using NSW Adaptive Environmental Water.

Between 15 and 20 Southern Bell Frogs have been heard calling during recent monitoring at Cockran Creek near Wakool with at least six individuals detected at a private wetland near Murray Downs.

And landholders have played a critical role in delivering the water which has led to this remarkable response.

Read the full press release.

Creek systems flourish after years without water

Environmental water at Gwynnes Creek. Photo: Sascha Healy/OEH

Environmental water at Gwynnes Creek. Photo S Healy OEH

The Jimaringle, Cockran and Gwynnes Creek systems between Wakool and Deniliquin are reaping the benefits of environmental flows, with vegetation flourishing and water birds and frogs enjoying the improved conditions. Environmental flows factsheet (PDF 1.5MB).

OEH has worked closely with local landholders to bring life back to the ailing 130km creek system, that travels through approximately 30 landholder properties located between the Edward and Murray Rivers.

To support the long term health of the environment, OEH is boosting natural water flows to deliver environmental water to the creek system. The environmental water flows began at the end of August 2012 and will continue into spring.

The health of the creek system suffered over the long dry period experienced in the last decade; Gwynnes Creek in particular has not had any substantial water flows for 40 years. So being able to leverage off the good wet conditions experienced in the last two years is a significant benefit for the system.

Monitoring inspections over the last two years in the Jimaringle and Cockran creeks have identified more than 20 waterbird species foraging in the creeks including egrets, cormorants and wood ducks.

Several different frog species have also been observed including pobblebonk, marsh and peron’s tree frogs. The painted burrowing frog was heard calling only days after the Gwynnes Creek environmental flows commenced.

The fringing River Red Gums, Black Box and Lignum and wetland vegetation such as Spike Rush and Duckweed have also shown improvement from the wet conditions.”

Up to 6,000 megalitres of environmental water in total from the NSW and Commonwealth government has been made available for delivery using Murray Irrigation Limited infrastructure.

Jimaringle, Cockran and Gwynnes Creek systems

Restoring the Tuppal Creek

In this video landholders talk about how red river gums and local wildlife are bouncing back with the help of environmental water delivered by OEH in 2012.

Located in the Southern Riverina between Tocumwal and Deniliquin, Tuppal Creek has come back to life after years of altered flows and saline inflows.

Hear landholders talk about how red river gums and local wildlife are bouncing back with the help of environmental water delivered by OEH in 2012.

Download factsheet (PDF 1.2MB) for the Tuppal Creek environmental watering event, Spring 2013.

Cockran, Jimaringle and Gwynnes Creek systems

This video shows how local irrigation infrastructure and teamwork have delivered environmental water to sections of the Murray Valley for the first time in 40 years with great results for plants and animals.

Extra water helps fish in the Edward-Wakool river system

Edward Escape - environmental water release into  Edward-Wakool river system. Photo: Emma Wilson/OEH

Edward Escape - environmental water release into Edward-Wakool river system. Photo Emma Wilson OEH

Dissolved oxygen levels are now being boosted in this popular fishing river system thanks to extra environmental water deliveries being coordinated by OEH.

Recent rainfall and flooding throughout the catchment had caused extra organic material to be deposited into the river, resulting in a ‘blackwater’ effect and lowering dissolved oxygen levels to below 2 milligrams per litre. This may have been causing native fish such as the Murray cod and yellow belly to experience severe stress and possible death.

It is expected that by 30 June 2012, up to 60 gigalitres of environmental water will have been released into the Edward-Wakool river system, since environmental releases commenced in early April.

There are promising signs that the poor quality blackwater is being diluted and better quality habitat created for native fish and other aquatic fauna.The Edward River at Moulamein recently registered healthier oxygen levels of around 4 milligrams per litre and there have been very few reports of fish kills to NSW Fisheries and the Murray- Darling Basin Authority.

This initiative has been delivered in partnership with the Commonwealth, State Water Corporation, Murray CMA, Forests NSW, NPWS, NSW Office of Water, Fisheries NSW, the river operators and the local community. All the environmental water for this event was sourced from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.

Southern bell frogs flourish at Jimaringle, Cockran and Gwynnes Creek systems

Vegetation, water birds and several frogs, including the endangered southern bell frog (Litoria raniformis) are all benefitting from environmental water flows in the Jimaringle, Cockran and Gwynnes Creek systems between Wakool and Deniliquin.

Southern bell frog. Photo: S Healy OEH

Southern bell frog. Photo: S Healy OEH

Gwynnes Creek had not received any substantial flows for the past forty years, and painted burrowing frog calls were heard just days after the environmental flows started in late August.

In late September, OEH staff identified six frog species within Gwynnes Creek, including the endangered southern bell frog.

OEH will continue to provide environmental flows to Gwynnes Creek to assist southern bell frog recruitment and breeding, as this species requires a longer inundation period to develop from egg to adult than the burrowing frog. Egg masses from other frog species were observed in the creek by OEH staff, so these flows should also assist other frogs.

The prolonged flows should also benefit wetland plants and enable them to regenerate and complete life cycles.

Page last updated: 14 September 2017