River health snapshot a baseline for future plans
The North Central Catchment Management Authority’s recovery plan for native fish will benefit from a comprehensive widescale citizen science monitoring project that has measured the health of four major waterways in the north of the state.
About 50 volunteers measured the condition of the Little Murray River, Loddon River, Gunbower Creek and Box-Pyramid Creek, creating a baseline snapshot of the health of the waterways.
North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) Project Manager Nicole Bullen said river health was measured by the kind of waterbugs present.
“The type of waterbugs in a river can tell us a lot about its health,” she said.
“If there is a large diversity of waterbugs, the river is generally in better shape.
“Low numbers of certain waterbugs can indicate an ecological disturbance, and we can also get an indication of pollution levels by what sort of bugs are present.”
Ms Bullen said Waterwatch volunteers, as well as recreational anglers, took part in the monitoring.
“The data provides a baseline assessment of river health with fish in mind,” she said.
“Healthy rivers mean healthy bugs, which leads to healthy and abundant native fish, and we know a century of regulation has changed fish numbers dramatically.
“We know that years ago people were asking which kind of native fish their family would like for dinner before they went fishing and the Murray River Fishing Company was pulling tonnes of fish out of the river every week.
“Things have changed, and this snapshot has shown that these waterways are in poor health, with all but one recording a unanimous ‘severely impacted’ rating.”
Ms Bullen said the snapshot will now be used as baseline data to measure the impact of the North Central CMA’s Native Fish Recovery Plan, a plan to restore the quality of the waterways and their native fish populations.
“Our program has targeted these waterways to bring them back to good health,” she said.
“We are fencing river banks, restoring vegetation on the banks and focusing river flows to benefit the health of the fish.
“We have also installed snags along the rivers, which will increase the waterbug numbers and provide food and homes for some of our most popular native fish.
“We know that with a program like this, it will make a big difference to the amount and abundance of native fish in those waterways.
“This data over the next decade will be invaluable to help us measure that difference.”
Mrs Bullen said it was important the local community continued to be involved in monitoring the sites.
“Citizen science is the way of the future. Not only does it provide us with invaluable information, but it gives the local community a chance to get to know and love their local creeks and rivers,” she said.
“We want to hear from anyone keen to help out and become volunteers. We will provide them with training and all the equipment they need.
“They will help us make a big difference to the quality of their local creeks and rivers.”
To volunteer, call (03) 54487124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
These priorities are being addressed as part of the Victorian Government’s $222 million investment over the next four years to improve catchment and waterway health across regional Victoria.
This investment is a key component of Water for Victoria – the government’s plan for management of our water resources now and into the future.